The SEC has made it a point of emphasis to upgrade Men's Basketball over the last couple of years. Our league has done a fantastic job of making sure teams' scheduling, facilities, and coaches rank at the top of the entire country. While significant progress has been made the SEC is still way behind in one area: officiating.
Alabama entered Saturday's contest having committed the second fewest amount of fouls in the league, so it was a bit odd for the Tide to be whistled for a season high 30 fouls against the Gamecocks. If 30 fouls wasn't bad enough, Alabama would also see four players foul out, I have followed basketball at every level my entire life and I'm not sure if I have heard of four players on one team fouling out in regulation. Oh but wait, there's more! South Carolina would make more free throws (28) than the Crimson Tide would attempt (25). In all the home team would go to the line a whopping 46 times.
Not only did the Tide get in foul trouble, our most indispensable players were hit the hardest. Shannon Hale started off the game hot, scoring Alabama's first 5 points before being called for his 2nd personal foul within the first three minutes of the game. From there Hale's fellow frontcourt mates would follow suit as Dont'a Hall, Jimmie Taylor, and Michael Kessens were all in severe foul trouble before the 5 minute mark in the opening half. Despite fouling out for the second game in a row, the freshman Hall would continue his stellar play on the boards and at the defensive end. It would be surprise if he doesn't take over the starting Center spot in the coming weeks.
The frontcourt wasn't the the biggest foul casualty on this thin to begin with roster, no the heart and soul of the Crimson Tide, Retin Obasohan would pick up his 2nd foul with 10 minutes remaining in the first half and his 3rd would follow shortly after. This team relies on Retin to do literally everything. If the Senior doesn't defend, score, rebound, pass, and whatever else Avery Johnson needs him to do Alabama will not be successful against anyone. It's hard to do the previously mentioned things from the bench, which is where he would find himself most of the night as he would pick up foul number four with 15:13 remaining in the game.
Alabama would go seven minutes without their leader and the Gamecocks made the most of it, opening up a 16 point lead during that span. Following a time-out, Coach Johnson was forced to put Obasohan back in and he was absolutely brilliant, single-handedly leading the Tide to within 6 with 4 minutes left. Momentum was seemingly on the visitors' side until South Carolina senior Michael Carrera launched a 3 to make the lead a healthy 9 points and from that point on the game was never really in doubt.
Even in a perfectly officiated game the outcome would have been quite possibly the same. Winning in Columbia these days is no easy task as Frank Martin's squad is now 12-0 at home. Still, I would have loved to have seen this game play out with each team's best players on the floor. Alabama is short on talent this season but you cannot question the heart of this team as we have learned so many times this season, and despite the loss there are a few positives to take away from this game. For the second straight game Shannon Hale was the offensive weapon we know he can be and also for the second straight game the team looked to have a new starting quality center in Dont'a Hall. Avery Johnson's team has been pretty good this year at bouncing back after losses and they will need to again Tuesday night in Starkville.