The Tide and the Tigers started off slowly in the first half, with neither team able to develop any offensive cohesiveness. Both teams played a tough, physical brand of defense and in the never-ending game of "what are the referees going to call," the players were allowed to play. Plays that have been fouls in the past few games were ignored, and the players responded by playing with more hustle and, at time, uptempo.
Alama lead 26-24 at the half, as both teams struggled to find the basket. Missouri shot 10-26 for 38.5% and Alabama shot 8-20 for 40%, in the first frame. The Tide was 4-12 from three point range and 6-10 from the free throw stripe. The Tigers were 2-8 from long range and 2-2 from the charity stripe in the first stanza.
The Tide came out in the second half and established a six- to nine-point margin early, and at that point there wasn't much chance of a very young Missouri team catching up. The Tigers shot no less than six air balls in the second half, including a point-blank, four-foot hook shot that barely touched the net. As bad as Missouri was in the first half, they were even more dismal in the second half, shooting 8-30 (27%) including 2-15 (13%) from the three-point line and 7-11 from the free throw line. Alabama was 8-17 (47%) in the second half, with 2-6 (33%) from the three point line and 18-24 (75%) from the free throw line. The Tide won the battle of the boards by a margin of 35-31.
Levi Randolph scored a game high 20 points to lead three Tide players in double digits, as Retin Obasohan had 12 points and eight boards, while Shannon Hale added 10 points. Obasohan was starting his second straight game in place of Ricky Tarrant, who is out with a lower leg injury. Obasohan had an outstanding all-around game, grabbing a game high eight rebounds and adding four steals. The junior from Belgium had multiple hustle plays where he dove on the floor to save balls, and, as always, played tough defense. Hale added three rebounds, an assist, a block and a pair of steals. Michael Kessens had six points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal in a fine all around game off the bench. Rodney Cooper had a pair of three-point baskets and tallied eight points on the night. Kenau Post led Missouri with 11 points and Keith Shamburger had six points and 11 assists.
Grant praised Randolph after the game saying, " Levi is a great player, and sometimes he doesn't realize what a great player he is. He took over at a crucial point in the game, and carried the team." Grant also said that "Michael Kessens played with great energy and was a big factor with his defense and rebounding." When asked about Hale, Grant stated, "Shannon is learning what it takes to play against bigs in the SEC, and it is starting to sink in, with his intensity and effort that he needs to put forth every day."
The game was a must win game for Coach Anthony Grant and his team, as the Tide improved their record to 14-8, 4-5 in the SEC. Missouri dropped to 7-15, 1-8 in conference play. Alabama just finished a rough January, having lost five of their last six games. During the tough stretch 'Bama played No. 1 Kentucky twice, played at Arkansas and had a stretch of three games in six days. The Tide bettered last years win total of 13 with the victory.
No one is going to confuse this 'Bama team with a great team, but they play with great effort and determination every game. A Grant team typically isn't pretty, but they almost always have a chance, simply because of the defense that the team plays. Whether or not that will be enough to reach the post season, and/or keep Grant's job remains to be seen.
The Tide have three of their four next games on the road, beginning with LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday at 5 p.m. CST, in a game that will be on ESPN2. The following Tuesday, they travel Starkville to take on Mississippi State at 8 p.m. CST in an SEC Network Game. On Valentines night, at 7 p.m., the Tide have a home game vs Vanderbilt, before traveling to hell - Auburn, to play the Boogs on the 17th in a 8 p.m CST game that will be on ESPNU. It would be nice to pull a 4-0 record out of that stretch, but 3-1 may be a more realistic goal.
Roll Tide Y'all, Support Bama Basketball