Free throws. Free throws. Free throws.
When you only make 55% of your free throws, that will lose a close game for you. In the world of free throws, Texas outscored Alabama by 12 points. Shooting only 55% from the free throw line is absolutely unacceptable, and this team has to fix this before they can become a legitimate threat.
The first half, though, went swimmingly. Alabama raced out to a 10-2 lead with a blend of fast paced, efficient offense and a trio of Texas turnovers early. Corban Collins started hot, hitting three of his first three 3-point shots, while Braxton Key continued to look like the man of the future with some solid all around play, including a soaring dunk in the middle of the Texas defense.
When the smoke finally cleared, Alabama entered halftime with a commanding 12 point lead, 38-26, and I was about ready to start placing money on an NCAA tournament berth for the Tide this year.
Then the second half happened. It started out well enough, if not great. Alabama struggled a little to recapture their groove from the first half, but was still doing enough to stay ahead of a resilient Longhorn squad for the first 10 minutes or so of the half. That’s when Shaka Smart decided to try a full court press on the Tide offense, and everything fell apart.
Alabama was totally inept at breaking the press, struggling to get across midcourt without turning the ball over, and then seemed clueless as to how to punish the defense when they did manage to break past. As a result, Texas kept up the full court press for the rest of the game, during which Alabama did not score for over three straight minutes until there were only 37 seconds left in the game, at which point it was too late.
It was a frustrating three minutes riddled with airballs, fouls, and just generally poor shot choices. The team looked tired, confused, and undisciplined, which is something we haven’t seen since Avery Johnson has been the coach. He definitely has his work cut out for him to fix whatever it was that happened at the end of this game.
Dazon Ingram led the team with 12 points, and added 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. He’s quietly growing more into the role of a point guard, and he really let loose some impressive passes today, displaying good vision and anticipation. Avery Johnson Jr. was actually second on the team with 10 points, despite limited minutes. Braxton Key, Corban Collins, and Riley Norris all had 9 points each, and Key also led the team with 7 rebounds.
Though Jimmie Taylor got the start, Donta Hall ended up with more of the playing time at the big man position than Taylor did. Hall really made his presence felt with 4 thunderous blocks and adding 5 rebounds to boot. Now we just need to get him involved in the offensive game somehow too...
On one hand, we saw a first half with everything clicking, and got to see some of the potential and talent of this team. On the other hand, that implosion at the end of the second half was worse than many of the Grantsketball implosions of the past and was quite concerning to see our team get that out of sorts.
The season is still young, and this team has a lot of talent. Avery Johnson has some work to do to get the team to show some more resiliency, but if any coach can do it, I believe he can.