It really was only fitting that Alabama super-freshman Collin Sexton missed over half the game with an eye injury, because this game was absolutely an eyesore to watch.
The Rhode Island defensive gameplan was pretty simple, and the numbers really tell the tale: play extremely aggressive under the basket and don’t ever even let the offense get shots off.
On one hand, they held Alabama to only 47 shot attempts and 24 turnovers on the night (for those so mathematically inclined, that means that the Tide turned the ball over nearly every third possession all game). The downside to that, though, was that they committed 29 fouls and gave Alabama 39 free throws on the night, 24 of which were turned into points.
Turnovers and free throws from Alabama, mixed in with 23 three-point attempts from URI, made up most all of the game, and really I could stop there and you would know all you needed about this game. Alabama generally stayed about 5-10 points ahead of URI the entire first half and the first 15 minutes of the 2nd due to free throws and working the big men, Donta Hall and Daniel Giddens, inside as the guards were double teamed so often, but a 3 pointer by Jarvis Garrett with 3 minutes to go tied the game up at 56 each.
Thankfully, Collin Sexton had just re-entered the game with stitches in his eyebrow and hit a three-pointer of his own in response. A minute later, John Petty left his usual spot outside the three point arc and got a rebound and put-back basket, despite a cramping thigh. From there, it turned into the game of the trailing team always fouling immediately to save the clock. Fortunately, Collin Sexton and Dazon Ingram made just enough free throws to keep the Tide on top and the defense did the rest.
Donta Hall was the star of the show tonight, getting a double-double by finishing with 13 points and a career high 14 rebounds, while adding 3 more blocks to his resume. His relief, Daniel Giddens, also had his best game so far in crimson, scoring 12 points to go with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks of his own.
Dazon Ingram was the other Tide player with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He spent much of the game as a point guard with Sexton out, and it showed in his 4 turnovers. He’s just a better wing player than a point.
John Petty had a poor shooting percentage, especially beyond the three point line, but he attempted enough to tie for second in scoring, with 12 points. He led the team in turnovers with 5, but also led the team with 4 assists, so it’s a wash, I guess.
Sexton had 11 points despite only playing about 14 minutes total. Avery Johnson Jr., Riley Norris, and Herbert Jones all combined for 10 points. Norris was invisible every time he stepped on the court. Johnson didn’t play a whole lot, but did his part to energize the offense any time he came in the game, and made a couple of his ridiculous sky-ball layups.
And Jones, as usual, made some impact plays such as critical rebounds, a crazy reverse layup, and drawing more charges. He may not be a big-time scorer yet, but he really does a lot of things right and can make some big plays when needed.
We survived, and that’s what counts. If anything, the team got some practice on working an offense without Sexton, working on an aggressive defense, and a lot of work on free throws. It was a low-scoring clanker of a game that was reminiscent of the Anthony Grant days, but Rhode Island had always planned on making it go that way.
A win is a win, and the team got a lot of good practice out of it.
Buckle up, and Roll Tide!