The Alabama Crimson Tide built an 11 point lead over the Texas A&M Aggies with 6:34 left in the game, then held on for a 63-62 victory on Wednesday night. The win was not secured until the last seconds when the Aggies' senior Anthony Collins, a 93% free throw shooter, missed two freebies with two seconds left on the clock.
The game was back and forth to start with Riley Norris burying multiple three pointers to keep the Tide close. A&M's largest lead was five at two different points in the first half, but 'Bama finished the half on a 14-4 run to carry a 32-27 lead into the locker room. Norris scored all 11 of his points in the first half to push the Tide out in front.
Texas A&M took their last lead of the game three minutes in to the second half by a score of 38-37 before the Tide ran off eight straight points to take a lead that they never relinquished. 'Bama stretched the lead out with another seven point run to go up by a 58-47 margin with just over nine minutes remaining. The Aggies closed to within four points several times, but Shannon Hale and Arthur Edwards hit big threes to keep them at bay.
The Aggies closed on a 15-5 run to end the game, as they scored the last six. The Tide seemed to be playing not to lose at the end as the final three possessions ended in turnovers or forced shots at the buzzer.
With 24 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, Retin Obasohan was forced to take a long three pointer that missed the mark. The Aggies milked the clock until Collins drove the lane and was fouled by Donta Hall with two seconds left. Somehow Collins clanged both shots of the front rim, and the rebound on the second miss went out of bounds off of Jalen Jones. This left 1.1 seconds on the clock and the Tide needing only to get the ball inbounds. Anyone who has watched 'Bama basketball knows that inbounding the ball has been a weak spot for the team. But Riley Norris threw a perfect bomb to a streaking Obasohan at the other end of the court to secure the victory.
The win over the 13th ranked Aggies was the Tide's fourth victory over a ranked team this season, the most for Alabama since the 2001-2002 season. The victory was the team's fourth in their last five games. Notably, 'Bama out-rebounded the much bigger A&M by a margin of 36-29, including 14-8 on the offensive boards. The Tide struggled shooting the ball in the second half to finish at 40% from the field, 32% from three and 69% from the line, compared to 42% from the field, 47% from three and 70% from the line for the Aggies.
Obasohan continues to carry the team, leading with 16 points while adding five assists and three steals. Norris finished with 11 to go with five rebounds and a pair of steals. Hale, in his first action in three games, added 10 on 4-9 shooting. Edwards hit a pair of key three pointers and finished with eight points. Jumping jack freshman Hall played 21 huge minutes in relief of Jimmie Taylor, and grabbed a career high 10 rebounds (six on the offensive glass) to go with six points, two steals and a block. The Luverne native has made major strides and has earned more playing time, as he continues to outplay Taylor.
Jones was the leading scorer in the game with 21 for TAM, while the Tide held Danuel House to 12 points, all in the second half. House was an All SEC performer last year and most likely will be again this season. Norris did a wonderful job defending him, never letting him get in a consistent rhythm.
The Tide now goes on a two-game road trip, starting at Florida on Saturday in a 4:30 CST game that will be on the SEC Network, followed by a February 17 game in Baton Rouge with LSU at 8 p.m. CST, also a SEC Network game. 'Bama is squarely on the bubble of the NCAA as of now, but must somehow figure out how to pull out six to eight more victories with seven games left plus the SEC Tournament. Away games with Florida, LSU, Kentucky and Georgia with be tough. Home tilts with MSU, AU and Arkansas are much more manageable. Win the three at home, steal one or two of the road games, and a couple of wins in the tournament may just put the Tide in the Dance, a very unlikely scenario at the beginning of the season.
Roll Tide Roll