On the heels of the football team’s exciting overtime win in the National Championship game on Monday, Alabama’s basketball team hosted South Carolina and came out with a 76-62 win in a methodical game. Despite a subpar game from star freshman Collin Sexton, the Tide bounced back from an awful loss to Georgia on Saturday in Athens.
With Dazon Ingram still slowed by the flu bug that kept him out of Saturdays game, and John Petty coming off a couple of bad games, coach Avery Johnson trotted out a starting five of Sexton, Donta Hall, Daniel Giddens, Herbert Jones, and Braxton Key.
Sexton commited a foul in the first minute of the game, and followed with an offensive foul a few minutes later to pretty much terminte his first half contributions at two points in seven minutes. Petty thrived in his role off the bench and scored 10 quick points once he entered the game. Avery Johnson, Jr. replaced Sexton and had a great half to help keep the Tide ahead at a comfortable margin.
The hot shooting Tiders ran out to a 25-8 lead before the Gamecocks hit a hot stretch and cut the lead to under double digits by the half at 40-33. Petty paced the home team with 12 points at the break. Without Sexton being the primary ball handler the team commited nine first half turnovers.
Coming out after intermission the Tide pushed the lead to 10 points and beyond, not allowing the ‘Cocks to gain any traction in their bid for a comeback. The three ‘Bama inside players - Hall, Giddens, and freshman Galin Smith - were key players in the victory, hitting a combined 14-15 from the field for the game. Smith has gotten sporadic minutes throughout the season, but always seems to make something happen, even if he sometimes looks awkward in doing so.
Petty led four players in double figures with 15 points, and added three assists and four rebounds. Hall had 13 points and led the team with seven rebounds. Giddens had an efficient 11 points with some nice power moves around the basket. Johnson, Jr. tossed in 10 points including a couple of three point shots. Key had a solid game with seven points, six rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal. Jones continues to do a little of everything with five points with five rebounds, four steals, two blocks, two assists, and two drawn charges. Sexton was held to a season low five points and had four assists.
After scorching the nets to the tune of 14-22 field goal shooting (63%) in the first half, the Tide “cooled off” to 16-29 (55%) in the second half. Overall the team hit 30-51 for 59%, including 7-17 (41%) from deep and was a pedestrian 9-14 (64%) from the free throw line. Bama won the boards 35-28 and had a season high 18 assists with seven blocks and eight steals. UA ended with 16 turnovers.
Defensively the Tide held USCe to 19-53 (36%) from the field, including 5-15 from deep. The Gamecocks hit 19-25 (76%) from the free throw line, unusally for an oppenent to take more free throws than the Tide at Coleman. Sexton only had one attempt, after averaging over nine so far in the season. USCe had eight assists with 13 turnovers.
The Tide needed a win in the worst way, and got a workman like one against a team they should beat. ‘Bama needs all the wins they can get, and have to hold court at home, while figuring out how to steal a couple of games on the road. Coming off a final four appearance in 2017, the Gamecocks have struggled after losing the bulk of their scoring from a season ago.
So often Bama leans on Sexton to provide the majority of their offense, but with his early foul trouble, he was never able to get in any type of rhythm. The team shared the ball with some of the best passing of the season, leading to the 18 assists on 30 made field goal attempts.
The Tide goes on the road to Baton Rouge to play LSU Saturday. The game tips at 7:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on the SEC Network. Following that game the team gets Auburn on the 17th and Mississippi State on the 20th, both at home. If the team can take the Bengal Tigers on Saturday they would have a lot of momentum coming home to play AU and MSU, and winning all three would put them squarely back into NCAA Tournament chatter. The margin of error is small for these guys, and they need to put together a stretch of good play, but now is as good a time as any to do so.
Roll Tide. Buckle Up