On an exciting day for Alabama sports fans, as the football team slipped into the playoff as a four seed, the basketball team couldn’t keep the excitement level, falling to a decent UCF team by a score of 65-62. A career night, 20 points, for Donta Hall was wasted in the loss. ‘Bama fell to 6-2 with the loss while the Knights broke a three game losing streak and improved to 5-3 on the young season.
The Tide started Riley Norris over Daniel Giddens despite the size of UCF. Knight center Tacko Fall stands at a cool 7’6” and weighs in at 295 pounds. ‘Bama got off to a good start, holding as much as a 11 point lead about 10 minutes into the half. Freshman shooting guard John Petty was in the starting line up, but aggravated his injured ankle only two minutes into the game. After a retaping he did re-enter the game and played the rest of the way without any ill effects. More importantly for the Tide, Collin Sexton picked up his second foul with 14 minutes remaining and spent several minutes on the bench.
UCF was able to take advantage of Sexton’s absence to cut the lead to a 36-30 at the half. The Knights entered the day averaging three made baskets per game from three point range, but hit 5-10 from deep in the first stanza. ‘Bama was 14-29 including 2-7 from three point range at the break, while UCF shot 10-27 (37%).
The Tide came out of the break asleep, and didnt seem to wake up until the very end of the game. At the 14 minute mark the Knights took the lead 45-44 and ‘Bama was fighting uphill the rest of the game. The team went on a couple of Anthony Grant team like scoring droughts, one of almost five minutes and one of almost four minutes. Eight minutes into the half, the team had eight points.
With 7:55 left ‘Bama trailed 55-49 when Norris went to the line for one and one to close the gap. led a Sexton fast break of beauty and made a showcase pass to Petty in the corner for a three to bring the Tide within one with 4:55 left. The Tide stayed within range, but could not totally close the gap until Sexton made two free throws to tie the game with 40 seconds left.
The Tide looked to be set up to have a shot at the end to win the game after Herbert Jones seemingly drew a charge under the basket. However since there was less than two minutes remining the call was able to be reviewed. The officials ruled that Jones had his heel on the line of the circle under the basket and changed the call to a block, sending UCF to the line. Terrell Allen missed the first but made the second to give the Knights a one point lead with 20 seconds left.
Dazon Ingram drove the lane and tried a wrap around pass to Donta Hall that was stolen. The Tide fouled Allen, who made both free throws for a three point lead. The Tide had about 16 seconds to try to set up a tying shot, but looked disjointed and had to call a hurried timeout with 2.8 seconds left. On the out of bounds play they were able to get Petty a good look for three from the corner, but he couldnt get it to fall, and the Tide was on the short end of a 65-62 score.
In the second half Hall was 7-7 from the field, while everyone not named Donta Hall was 1-15. Hall finished 9-9 on the day and 2-2 from the free throw line for 20 points with four rebounds and four blocks. Petty finished with 12 while Sexton had only seven, all from the free throw line. Ingram lead the team with seven rebounds while scoring six points.
UCF was a blistering 15-25 in the second half (60%) while the Tide was an awful 8-22 for 36%. For the game the Knights shot 48% to 43% for Bama. The Tide was 15-23 from the free throw line, which hurt them in the end. UCF won the boards 37-28 and turned the ball over 20 times to 15 for ‘Bama. Allen played all 40 minutes for the Knights and lead the way with 16 points and eight assists.
Central Florida had a great game plan for the Tide, who game into the game averaging 82 points per game. The Knights used most of the shot clock on every possesion, frustrating the Alabama run and gun game.
Although a tough loss, the Tide still has a great RPI and strength of schedule, with tough opponenets still in front of them. With the SEC looking to be much stronger this year, a good out of conference record is important for the win total, but not necessarily for the SOS and RPI. So many SEC teams will be good this year that it would be nice to be in the 11-2, 10-3 range in pre conference games, however.
The good news is Braxton Key is close to being able to return, as he has begun practicing with the team. The Tide tips off again on Wednesday, December 6th when they host Rhode Island at 7 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on SEC N Plus- Watch ESPN App.
Roll Tide and Buckle up