In the consolation game of the Las Vegas Main Event, the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the St Louis Billikens 62-57. 'Bama closed the game on a 17-3 run to escape with the victory over a bad St Louis team. Freshman Braxton Key earned his first start of the season and lead the team with 16 points, and added four rebounds. Dazon Ingram was the only other Tide player in double digits with 10.
The first half was back and forth and sloppy. St Louis (2-3) carried a 30-29 lead into the locker room at the break. SLU controlled most of the second half, but the Tide kept it close until a quick flurry of three pointers with five minutes left stretched the deficit to nine points. 'Bama looked dead in the water at that point, but Key hit a couple of crucial three point shots to keep it close, and Shannon Hale buried a three from the corner to tie the game at 57.
St Louis turned the ball over 11 times in the second half, including two traveling violations, and a step out of bounds in the final two minutes. The Tide took advantage and scored 26 points off of those second half turnovers. Ingram and Key hit clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Alabama again shot poorly, 20-47 from 42%, including 7-21( 33%) from three, but finally improved at the free throw line at 15-19 for 79%. The Tide was out rebounded 32-27, and committed 14 turnovers with only 11 assists. St Louis was 19-44 for 42% from the field including 6-15 for 40% from three-point range, and 13-18 for 72% from the line. Nineteen turnovers doomed the Billikens chances.
Coach Avery Johnson played 10 men at least 12 minutes apiece, with Key leading the way with 30. Corban Collins was next with 27 minutes and Ingram logged 26 minutes. Interestingly, Bola Oliynian, who had started the last two games, did not see any action. Donta Hall played 23 minutes and led the team with six boards. Nick King had his second straight solid game, scoring nine points and adding four rebounds.
Johnson went small in crunch time, with Hale and King playing the inside with Key, Collins and Ingram. The quintet was quick and athletic, helping to force SLU into mistakes. Coach AJ said the team changed defenses to some looks that they haven't used this season.
A win is a win is a win, but this one was ugly. However, it would have been an even uglier loss, against at bad team. St Louis got run off the court by BYU on Monday, and were a 14 point underdog to the Tide. A few things came to the surface in this week's games, mainly that Key is a multi talented player that needs to be on the floor. King seems to be rounding into game shape after sitting out last season as a transfer, and can be an impact player. Hall can rebound and swat shots and Ingram, although sometimes loose with the ball, is a triple threat player that can score, rebound and pass. Collins is the solid veteran leader. Riley Norris can score outside and battle on the boards. Avery Johnson, Jr. brings speed and energy when he enters the game, and can help as long as he doesn't go above about 15 minutes. Ar'Mond Davis loves to shoot, and would be dangerous if he knocked down a few shots every now and then. As for Jimmie Taylor and Hale, I have stopped trying to figure out. They are both now seniors, and what you get is what you get. Taylor had his typical two points and no rebounds tonight, and although Hale hit the tying shot, that was the only one he made all week.
There is potential to win games when the team hits shots, but there is also the potential for some bad losses. Hopefully the rotation will tighten up and the team will begin to jell. With so many new faces it may take a while to be cohesive, and there are pieces in place to make it a successful season.
After a red eye flight back tonight, the team will take off for Thanksgiving Day before getting back to work on Friday. They tip it off again on November 29th at home against Charleston Southern at 6:00 p.m., followed by a trip to play Texas on December 2nd at 8:30 p.m.
Roll Tide and Buckle Up