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Alabama Basketball Loses to Wichita State

After putting together one of their most impressive games of the season, Alabama collapsed in the last six minutes.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Well... That one stung.

Alabama marched into the heart of Shocker territory on a mission. The Tide came out with the defensive intensity we have become accustomed to under Anthony Grant for the first time this season. The offense was spotty in the first half, but did its job of scoring at least as many points as the Shockers. Wichita State got an early lead, but a Shannon Hale free throw gave Alabama a 25-24 lead going in to halftime. The first half was a low-scoring, low-drama affair.

Then the second half happened. The Tide's offense came out of the break working as smoothly and furiously as a well-oiled windmill before a windstorm. Pretty much every Tide player got involved in the frenzy of shooting well en route to a 51-40 lead with six minutes left in the game. At this point, Alabama was shooting an absurd 77% field goal percentage in the second half.

And then the Tide pulled one of the most monumental collapses since the fall of the Roman Empire. The shots were bad, the rebounding was worse, and the turnovers, unlike Christmas in Whoville, did come in packages, boxes and bags. With 33 seconds left in the game and a 51-51 tie, Levi Randolph was fouled and sent to the free throw line. The 90% free throw shooter decided that this was the best time for him to go 50%, and Alabama took a one point lead after not scoring for five whole minutes. The Shockers took the ball into Alabama's court and after a nifty baseline pass, leading scorer Darius Carter shattered the Tide's hopes and dreams with a resounding slam dunk. Rodney Cooper air-balled his buzzer-beater attempt to finalize the 53-52 loss

There were some bright spots in this game. Ricky Tarrant showed some great ball handling against the Shockers omnipresent full-court press, and also had a couple of Trever Releford-esque how-the-heck-did-that-go-in moments, and finished the game with 7 points. Randolph was deadly accurate, hitting 4-6 shots from the court, and 2-2 on three-pointers. He did, however miss two free throws. Jimmie Taylor had one of his best games so far in a Tide uniform, officially blocking 3 shots (and probably a few more through sheer intimidation), and adding 6 points and 5 rebounds.

Michael Kessens continues to improve and shows some great potential both under the basket and as a jump-shooter a little further away from the rim. It is my personal (what do I know though?) opinion that more of the offensive gameplan should involve Kessens. Shannon Hale continues to be extremely frustrating. He made some really great shots all day, tying Randolph with a team high 13 points, and played mostly good defense. But he also had some awful passes and turnovers of the "oops, the ball was in my hands, but now its not" variety.

Rodney Cooper, Retin Obasohan, Riley Norris, and Justin Coleman all made a couple of plays here and there, but didn't have too much influence on the game.

Alabama shot a better 3-point percentage (31.3% to 27.8%), field goal percentage (46.5% to 40.8%), and free throw percentage (58.3% to 47.1%) but still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Tide gave their best defensive effort of the season, and played a championship-level offense for about 15 minutes in the second half, but the mental toughness just was not there to hold on to the win.

There were quite a few positives to take away from the game, such as a 1-point loss to the 11th ranked team in the nation, but the collapse was so typical Alabama that it just hurt. Hopefully, coach Grant and the seniors Randolph and Cooper can rally the team and build some mental toughness to close out these games with their leadership. If that happens, this can be a very dangerous team. If it doesn't, its going to be a long season.