Survive and advance. Alabama came into this week knowing it simply had to grab a pair of ‘W’s against the cellar-dwellers of the SEC, regardless of how each game transpired, and boy did the Tide do exactly that against Missouri on Wednesday. ‘Bama had easily one of the worst offensive performances of the season within the entire conference the other night, but once again displayed grit and determination by weathering the storm and coming out victorious.
That’s about the best way one can spin that game. It was ugly. A win is a win though, and Alabama kept all of its goals for the rest of the season alive.
Next up is a rematch with the LSU Tigers (9-16, 1-12 SEC), a team that, unlike Missouri, has totally given up on the season. It’s honestly a minor miracle that Johnny Jones hasn’t been canned yet. Despite fielding a pretty talented roster with multiple former blue-chip recruits, this Tiger team has been atrocious. Defense has been entirely optional for them all season, as they are now giving up 82.1 PPG, 339th in the country. As was the case with Mizzou, Alabama simply cannot afford a loss to this team on Saturday.
The Last Meeting
Three Keys to Victory
Attack. The. Basket. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills watching Alabama continue to settle for long jumpers this season. The Crimson Tide once again found a lot of success Tuesday night against Florida attacking the rim off the drive and in the paint, but once again went away from it far too often. Not only is LSU the worst defensive team in the SEC, they also only have one true post player left on the roster, the aforementioned Robinson. The guards can be beat on the drive, and the forwards don’t defend the rim well. Braxton Key, Avery Johnson Jr., and Dazon Ingram need to be going to the hole all day. Even if they don’t finish, chances are good that the long, leaping Donta Hall will clean up the miss.
Fouls/Free Throws. The most frustrating thing about Tuesday’s loss to the Gators is that Alabama would have won the game if the Tide could simply make free throws. 16/30 from the charity stripe will lose you the basketball game 9/10 times, especially against a quality team like Florida. That simply has to improve. Luckily, LSU is as bad as Alabama in this department, as they’ve shot an embarrassing 64.4% from the line this season. They also don’t get to the line very often (318th in the country in FTA), so they basically get nothing from the free throw line every game. Alabama has an opportunity to create a large advantage here.
Dominate the Glass. Don’t look now, but the Tide have been cleaning up on the glass lately. With LSU’s lack of an interior presence (and an assured large amount of missed jump-shots), Alabama could really dominate the boards Saturday afternoon. That could go a long way towards another conference road victory for the Tide.
It was a tale of two halves for the Tide’s first match-up with LSU in Baton Rouge. Alabama’s offense stunk up the place in the first half, shooting 9/32 from the floor and 3/14 from downtown. But the Tide came out hot in the second half, going 16/31 overall and 7/14 from three-point range. Corban Collins, formerly of LSU by way of Morehead State, had a career day in his return to Baton Rouge, knocking down seven three-pointers and finishing with 24 points. Riley Norris had one of his best performances as well, dropping 20 points to go along with 5 rebounds.
All in all, Alabama’s usually anemic offense scored 53 points in the second half on their way to an 81 point outing as they pulled away from LSU 81-66. If the Tide can balance out their scoring a bit better in this game, LSU might roll over quickly.
What to Watch For This Time
Considering how quickly LSU wilted in the second half of the game last time around, and how much worse it has gotten for the Bayou Bengals since that game, a quick start by ‘Bama could be the key to winning this game. Once the Tide started hitting their shots in Baton Rouge, the floodgates opened, as LSU looked about as interested in defending as Gus Malzahn does watching two people play a game of chess. If Alabama can come out with some high intensity and execute early on offense (which has been a real struggle recently), they could put this game away early.
However, if the Tide slop around again, this could get interesting. LSU’s got some players. Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson can both score, and it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to see them letting loose and keeping this game close if Alabama doesn’t put the clamps down on them early. If the Tigers do end up making a game of it, turnovers could loom large. Alabama’s had their fair share of turnover problems, but LSU has been just as bad. The difference is that the Tide turn their opponents over quite a bit as well, and with the game being at home this time, that +8 turnover margin ‘Bama experienced last time against the Tigers might just double.
However they do it, Avery Johnson’s team just needs to find a way to win. a 16-10 (9-5 SEC) record puts Alabama in position to make something happen with two weeks left in the regular season. For one, it would keep the Tide on track for the fourth and final double-bye in Nashville. Secondly, it would also keep Alabama’s slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive, as three of the Tide’s last four opponents all rank in the current top-60 of the RPI, so they’ve got some beef left on the schedule. In other words, the table needs to be set before the Tide can run it, and LSU is the last landmine in the way.
The game will tip-off at 2:30 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.