The boys were still in the Christmas mindset tonight. Alabama shot a collectively disgusting 37% on the night, en route to a low scoring, overtime affair with one of the worst teams in the nation, but ultimately pulled it out 67-59.
Michael Kessens opened the game with a nice lay-up, and then showed his versatility as a big man by hitting a 3-pointer, scoring Alabama's first five points of the night. From there, both offenses devolved into what was the equivalent of two pigs rolling around in a swamp, and occasionally finding a mud-covered diamond. 15 of Jacksonville State's first 21 points came from three point shots, and many were well outside NBA range. Arthur Edwards hit occasional jumpers interspersed throughout the first half to keep the Tide within a respectable range of J-State. Edwards hit a three with 10 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 27, but the Gamecocks' top scorer, Jared Hamilton, retaliated with a quick buzzer beater to take a two point lead into half time.
As ugly as the first half was, the second half was its disinherited half-brother. Despite some strong under-the-basket play from Jimmie Taylor early on, the Tide struggled to put many more points on the board. Fortunately, Jacksonville State was not any better. Riley Norris hit a three-pointer with 12 minutes left in the game, which would sadly and unbelievably be the Tide's last field goal. Fortunately, the Tide hit enough free throws down the stretch to take the game into overtime at 55 apiece.
In the last 5 minutes, Alabama finally remembered how to offense. Jimmie Taylor jumpstarted the team with a monstrous dunk after shrugging off a Gamecock defender, Retin Obasohan scored an emphatic lay-up, and Justin Coleman iced away the game with the prettiest free throws you'll ever see.
Senior Arthur Edwards led the way for the Tide with 16 points, and also was the only Tide player with more than one three-pointer. Towering Jimmie Taylor had one of his best games in an Alabama uniform, as he did not miss a single shot on his way to 13 total points. He even hit 50% of his free throws (baby steps...). Taylor added 5 blocks, 6 rebounds, and a steal, and all of that does not even quantify the amount of effort the big man game put forth in this game. He was all over the court, sacrificing his body for loose balls and offering a true intimidation factor.
Riley Norris, however, matched, and may have exceeded, Taylor's court presence and effort. Norris recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and added a pair of blocks himself. Norris did struggle with free throws though, only making 3 of his 7 attempts.
The duo of point guards, Justin Coleman and Retin Obasohan, combined for a night that both would love to forget. Coleman was 0 for 6 shooting on the night, Obasohan nade only 1-6. Michael Kessens, Donta Hall, and Brandon Austin all got a little playing time, but none made a whole lot of impact on the game.
It was not pretty, but the team did show some fortitude to close out a trap game that looked to be an upset in the making late in the match. This team can play a lot better than it showed tonight, but just surviving and getting the win will further solidify the extremely impressive out of conference resume that Coach Johnson has been building.