The Alabama Crimson Tide stayed alive in the SEC Tournament by defeating South Carolina for the second time in about a month, this time by a score of 64-53 on Friday in Nashville. The Tide improved to 19-13 and the Gamecocks fell to 22-10 on the season.
The game started like many Tide games have this season: very slowly. Both teams had a hard time making shots, and turned the ball over at at high rate. Despite shooting only 35% on 10-28 (including 2-10 from deep), the Tide held a halftime lead of 23-22. South Carolina was even worse, with a 9-26 performance for 34% and only 1-8 from three point range.
‘Bama came out of the half with renewed energy and played a fantastic half, outscoring the ‘Cocks by a score of 41-31 to take the victory. The Tide blistered the second half nets to the tune of 12-21 (57%) and 3-5 (60%) from three point range, all the while holding Carolina to 9-23 for 39 %, and 3-9 from three point land. Alabama was 15-21 (74%!) from the free throw line.
The Tide dominated the backboards 42-27 with 12 of ‘Bama’s rebounds on the offensive end. The men in Crimson committed 13 turnovers and passed for 13 assists in the game. Not an ideal ratio, but better than usual this season.
After scoring only three points in the Thursday opening victory over Mississippi State, Braxton Key had a big day, scoring 18 points while grabbing seven rebounds and passing for three assists. Riley Norris was held scoreless in the first half but heated up in the second stanza with 12 points and added five rebounds. Avery Johnson, Jr. was next in the scoring column with nine points in 20 minutes. A day after scoring 17 points on perfect shooting on Thursday, Dazon Ingram was held to seven points, but for the second game in a row did not commit a single turnover. Ingram added six rebounds (four of the offensive variety) and three assists. Bola Olaniyan did his usual yeoman's work on the glass, leading the team with 10 rebounds, three offensively. The graduate transfer from Nigeria added five points. Donta Hall had a nice game in 17 minutes before fouling out, contributing seven points and five rebounds. Corban Collins only scored four points, but led the team with five assists.
The Tide controlled SEC Player of the Year, Sindarius Thornwell, holding him to 16 points and four rebounds, after giving up 43 points and 20 rebounds to the senior in the earlier game.
Once again ‘Bama showed when they can knock down some shots, they are dangerous. The rebounding, defense and toughness of this team cannot be questioned. The ability to put the ball in the basket can be. The first two days of the SEC Tournament, the shooting has improved as well as the ball handling, passing and free throw shooting.
The next game is a rematch with the top seeded Kentucky Wildcats at 12 noon on Saturday, which will be televised on ESPN. In the first meeting in Tuscaloosa the Tide started slowly, and trailed 29-20 at halftime, before losing by a score of 67-58. ‘Bama had chances to make the game interesting down the stretch but a 9-26 disaster at the free throw line cost the team a chance to pull off the upset. Key led the team in scoring on that day with 21.
It remains to be seen how much gas the Tide has in the tank as they play their third game in three days. Although a decided underdog, this is a game that ‘Bama can win. The Wildcats are very good, but not quite the juggernaut they have been over the past few seasons. Instead of a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament the ‘Cats may be relegated all the way down to a two seed. The Tide will definitely have to be at their best to pull off the upset, but it is possible.
RTR, Buckle Up and wear your shades, because ‘Bama basketball’s future is bright.
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