Coming in, all the hype was around the two team’s star freshmen, Collin Sexton and Mohamed Bamba. Both teams seemed evenly matched, led by star freshmen, and jostling for reemergence into a national scene.
All looked promising for Alabama early, as Sexton and crew passed the ball in circles around a confused Texas defense, leading to a plethora of open looks. Even though the shots wouldn’t quite go in, we all expected that would change as the players got more settled in and kept getting open looks.
It didn’t. And as the shots kept missing, the offense started losing confidence around the perimeter and was getting repeatedly stymied on the inside by Bamba, who blocks shots just by standing there. Fortunately, for most of the first half, Texas was not much better in the shooting department, and with 7 minutes to go, Alabama was down 21-23. Then an ugly 7-minute shooting drought happened that put the Tide down by 12 points before a few free throws and a sudden surge in the last 49 seconds from Dazon Ingram to toss an assisted dunk to Galin Smith and then turning around and making a layup of his own brought the game to 28-35, with the momentum and crowd being behind Alabama again.
Instead of building on the end-of-the-half heroics, Alabama came out flat and Texas got a quick dunk and a 3 pointer in under 40 seconds before the Tide recovered their wits and remembered to play defense. John Petty and Daniel Giddens then led a slow comeback with 7 points and some impact plays to bring Alabama within 4 points, a score of 41-44 with 13 minutes left in the game.
After that, the wheels totally fell off. Nothing good happened for Alabama in any way. They couldn’t score. Passes were generally bad and many got picked off. All the foul calls went against them. Sexton injured his knee (I’m as of now still uninformed on what the injury was. He came back a couple of times, but ended the game on the bench and in obvious pain). Bamba blocked every shot imaginable and also got all the rebounds.
In the next 11 minutes after Giddens’ heroics, Alabama scored all of 7 points. A three pointer from Petty, a drive to the basket from Sexton, and one more dunk from Giddens. That was it.
Alabama’s defense actually played fairly well, holding Texas to 66 points on the night, but when the offense only gets 48 until Avery Johnson Jr. gets a pity basket in the waning seconds of the game, even the best defense in the world doesn’t matter.
The worst part of all of it was that it wasn’t even that Texas was playing great defense. Alabama had open shots around the outside all night and just couldn’t make them. Meanwhile, Bamba totally dominated Donta Hall inside for rebounds, and he also prevented the Tide guards from driving to the basket.
And that was really it. Alabama just forgot that the best way to win a game of basketball was to get the ball to go through the hoop. When you don’t do that, you lose.
If you’re a numbers sort of person, then Alabama shot 34.4% from the floor on the night, and 20% from three point range. Pretty atrocious, really. The two teams were nearly identical in fouls, turnovers, and rebounds... In fact Alabama even got a few more shot attempts than did Texas. But 34% vs 44% shooting was the difference. And it was a big, 16 point difference.
John Petty and Daniel Giddens were the two lone bright spots for Alabama all night. Petty was 5/11 on the night, and led the team with 14 points, with a couple of well-timed threes and a massive alley-oop dunk.
Giddens, meanwhile, was the only Tide player to have any success whatsoever in the paint, getting 10 points of his own, all of which came from either dunks or posting up on someone and just going over them for a hook shot. He also had 6 rebounds.
Sexton had trouble scoring and getting to the basket (and also staying on the court in the second half with his gimpy knee/thigh), but he was all over the place making his impact felt in other ways. He had 5 rebounds, and led the team with 4 assists and 3 steals.
Braxton Key continues to look rusty, missing 7 of his 8 shots and giving up two turnovers (I really thought it was more than that, but the stats say 2 so I’m going with it) in only 22 minutes of playing time.
Well, it was a pretty terrible loss against a team that should have been an even match. Coach Avery Johnson has his work cut out for him to get his team back on track. He’s in year 3 with a bevvy of talented players that he has recruited, so there are no excuses for losses this ugly anymore.
That said, he does have the offense clicking with ball movement and passing, the players are just struggling to finish any given possession with points. Here’s to hoping the poor shooting was an outlier, not a trend going forward as we move into league play.