In Anthony Grant's six seasons at the Capstone, the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team has been know for defense. Tuesday night in Coleman Coliseum, Alabama played one of their better defensive games of the Grant era, holding Texas A&M to 44 points on 30% (16-of-52) shooting. Admittedly, the Aggies were without their leading scorer and rebounder in Jalen Jones, but as well as the Tide played, his presence may have made little difference.
Both teams started off slowly, with the Tide leading 16-10, eleven minutes into the first half. 'Bama then stretched the margin to nine before A&M scored the last six points of the half, including an 8-1 run over the last three minutes, to cut the lead to 27-24. At the half the Tide was shooting 8-of-22 (36%) from the field, 3-of-15 (20%) from the three-point line, and 8-of-11 (72%) from the free throw line. The Aggies were hitting 10-of-26 (39%) from the field, 3-of-12 (25%) from deep, and 1-1 from the free throw line. Ricky Tarrant and Rodney Cooper paced the Tide with five first-half points.
The half ended on a controversial note as the final Aggies basket was a buzzer-beating layup that was reviewed on replay. The ball was clearly clearly still in Jordan Green's hand when the buzzer sounded. It was an issue that would plague the Tide all night, as TV Teddy Valentine and his officiating crew were once again more interested in looking good on television than in getting the call correct.
Alabama came out in the second half with more energy, and stretched its lead with a swarming defense, great individual efforts, timely rebounding, and shooting at a better clip (13-of-25 for 52%.) The defense was the star of the night, especially in the second half, where the Aggies were held to 23% on 6-of-26 shooting.
Retin Obasohan, healthy after offseason ankle surgery, provided an offensive spark and played his second straight outstanding game -- scoring 12 points in just 13 minutes of action. Ricky Tarrant was quietly the team's leading scorer with 15 points, as Levi Randolph and Michael Kessens netted 10 points each. Randolph has now scored in double digits in every game this season, and while he was quieter last night, Randolph had two spectacular dunks to reach double digits. Levi's final points came on a Sportscenter Top 10 play: A Tarrant steal led to a break, and Ricky had a nifty assist as he used the backboard to set up Randolph for the slam.
Once again Alabama had nine players with double-digit minutes, with Randolph's 36 minutes leading the way. The Tide had a big advantage at the free throw line, with 25 attempts to seven for A&M. Kessens and Randolph just missed double-doubles with nine boards each, to go with their 10 points. Like Obasohan, Kessens is also improving his play as he heals from off-season surgery (double sports hernia surgery.) Cooper grabbed six rebounds, to go with his eight points.
Starting Saturday, the Tide embark on a very tough four game stretch, three of those on the road. The Conference did Alabama no favors: Saturday Jan. 9th at the Tennessee Volunteers; Tuesday Jan. 13th at the South Carolina Gamecocks; Saturday Jan. 17th at home vs. the Kentucky Wildcats; and, Thursday Jan. 22nd at the Arkansas Razorback's. Monday's victory was huge then, and a must-win if the Tide are going to contend for postseason play.
Saturday's game at Tennessee is set for a 1 p.m. CST tip, and will be televised by the SEC Network.
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