The Alabama Crimson Tide fell to 2-2 on the young season after losing to Valparaiso 68-60 on Monday night/Tuesday morning. After playing a noon game earlier this year the Tide got a taste of midnight hoops, and didn't fair any better, once again failing to make crucial plays down the stretch.
Poor shooting, too many turnovers and too much Alec Peters were the culprits that did in the Tide. 'Bama shot 23-56 for 41% from the field, 6-21 for 28% from three and only 8-13 61% from the free throw line. The Tide lives and dies by the three point shot, and when sharp shooter Ar'Mond Davis has an 0-8 night, including 0-5 from deep, they will struggle. In addition, a six point trip by Valpo in the first half and a four point trip in the second sealed Alabama's fate.
Coach Avery Johnson again started Riley Norris, Corban Collins, Jimmie Taylor, Dazon Ingram and Bola Olaniyan. Taylor looked like he was going to have a strong game when he scored the first two baskets for the Tide, but quickly picked up two fouls, and was never again a factor, finishing the game with six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. Donta Hall replaced him for much of the night and had his finest game in Crimson, scoring nine points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 23 minutes.
'Bama and The Crusaders played a back and forth first half, with Valpo holding a 34-31 advantage at the half. The second half was more of the same up until about the 10 minute mark. Braxton Key hit a three point shot for the Tide with 11:50 left for the last 'Bama lead at 45-44. In a four point game, Johnson was assessed a technical foul on a sequence when Norris drove for a layup without a foul call, and Hall was called for a foul on a similar play at the other end. The four point play with just over five minutes left stretched the Valpo lead to nine, and pretty much buried the Tide. 'Bama had a slight chance, down five with 30 seconds to go, when Ingram turned the ball over by stepping on the end line, ending all hope for a last second victory.
Norris and Collins led the team in scoring with 10 each, followed by Hall with nine. Key added eight points and Nick King played his most extended minutes of the year, 13, and scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds. Shannon Hale, Davis and Avery Johnson Jr, who combined for 49 points against Ball State on Friday, combined for only two - a layup by Johnson - on Monday. Hale contributed one rebound and two turnovers in 13 minutes, while Davis had one rebound and nothing more in 14 minutes. Johnson Jr. did seem to give the team a spark and some energy in his 15 minutes on the court.
Overall, a poor performance by the team in a game they really needed to win. Peters is a legitimate All-American, future NBA player, but up and down the roster the Tide should have prevailed. They have to make shots to have a chance, and shooting is a streaky thing. However there is no excuse for the bad free throw shooting that has haunted the team seemingly for several years now. Not knowing which Hale or Davis is going to show up each night is another problem. The freshman Key continues to provide solid play, and King looked good in his time on the court. It seems apparent that there is more upside to playing Hall instead of Taylor, who after four years is basically the same player he was is first year.
With a lot of new guys, coach Johnson is still experimenting and trying to come up with the best combination of players to be on the court at the same time. Hopefully, they will get it figured out soon, before the season spirals out of control. This was a winnable game, and the team doesn't need to get a hangover and play poorly on Wednesday when they take on the St Louis Billikens. The game is at 8:30 CT on Wednesday and once again can only be seen by streaming live through YouTube.
Buckle Up and Roll Tide, help is on the way.