An excited sold-out crowd poured into Coleman Coliseum on a cold Saturday afternoon and got their money's worth in a game that went down to the wire, before LSU pulled out a 72-70 victory. The crowd could be credited with helping the Tide play exciting basketball under first year coach Avery Johnson. The timing didn't hurt, as the game started a mere one hour after the football parade, and there was plenty of anticipation to see freshman phenom Ben Simmons play. Simmons is oft compared to LeBron James and is widely expected to be the first player taken in this summer's NBA draft. The 6'10" native of Australia is a generational player with a myriad of skills, and leads his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.
The Tide profited from Simmons picking up his second foul with about five minutes left in the first half to end the stanza on a 22-9 run to take a 41-36 lead at the intermission. Arthur Edwards hit 4-6 shots and all four free throws to take 14 points into the locker room. Retin Obasohan added nine points and Riley Norris provided a little of everything with five points, six rebounds and two steals. 'Bama shot 13-30 (43%), 5-15 (33%) from three and 10-15 (66%) from the free throw line in the first half. The Tigers were 15-31 (48%), 2-6 from three and 4-7 from the free throw line in the first period. LSU held a 21-18 lead on the boards.
The second half was close throughout, with the Tide taking their largest lead at 60-54 with 10 minutes left in the game.The Tigers then went on a 6-0 spurt to tie the game, and from there the tilt was back and forth until the final whistle. With the score tied and under a minute remaining, Tim Quarterman drove the lane for the Tigers and missed a lay-up but grabbed his own miss and sank the put-back. Obasohan drove the ball for the Tide and missed a lay-up, but tied up Simmons for a jump ball call with 17 seconds left. The possession arrow favored 'Bama and they received one more chance. Again Obasohan drove the lane, as he has successfully done so often this season, but his wild try missed and LSU pulled the rebound to end the game.
The Tide had chances but faded in the second half again, scoring 41 points in the first half but only 29 in the second while LSU scored 36 points in each half. The Tigers are an inside oriented team and shot 29-49 (49%) for the game and 4-10 (40%) from the three point line, and 10-14 (71%) from the free throw line. The less inside oriented 'Bama team shot 24-58 (41%) from the field, including 10-25 (40%) from the three point line and 12-19 (63%) from the free throw line. Free throw shooting continues to be an Achilles' heel for a team that has little margin for error. LSU won the battle of the boards 39-34. Alabama blocked seven shots,the Tigers did not block any. Both teams had five steals and LSU won the assists war 14-11.
Simmons was as good as advertised,finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists.Keith Hornsby (son of rocker Bruce Hornsby) added 12 points and Quarterman added 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists off the bench. Craig Victor II had 11 points and five rebounds and Antonio Blakeney was also in double figures with 10 points and five rebounds.
Obasohan again led the Tide in scoring with 20 points and added five rebounds and four assists. Edwards finished with 17 points and four rebounds.Norris continued his stellar play,recording a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.Jimmie Taylor added eight points,but could only pull down three rebounds in 20 minutes.In only seven minutes,freshman Donta Hall grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots.'Bama's other inside players, Shannon Hale and Michael Kessens had three rebounds apiece. Hale scored seven points on 2-10 shooting.
Much like Tuesday's game at Auburn, the officials seemed to have a point of emphasis on certain parts of the game. In the AU game fouls were seemingly called on any touching of an opposing player. In Saturday's game it was apparently traveling (but only from the Tide players) as the team was called for walking on four out of five possessions in the first half.
'Bama continues to miss point guard Dazon Ingram greatly, and very likely would have three to four more wins with him available. The team needs some sort of consistent inside presence to be able to pull off wins down the stretch,but things seem to be looking up under coach Johnson.
The Tide takes to the hardwood again on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. as they entertain the Tennessee Volunteers. The game will be shown on the SEC Network.
Roll Tide and Buckle Up
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