The first half of this game was truly an exercise in duality. The Tide started off the first 10 minutes of the game out-manned, out-matched, and out-hustled. They looked totally asleep at the best of times, and comatose the rest of it. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 23-9 lead before Alabama finally woke up and started putting forth a little effort.
Everything flipped all at once, and suddenly Penn State went nearly 8 minutes without scoring a point— time period in which Alabama scored 24 unanswered points. It truly was a team effort too. John Petty was probably the best of the bunch, showing off plenty of moves under the basket and slick passes in the lane (it’s amazing what Petty can do when he remembers that he can do a whole lot more than just shoot threes), but Donta Hall, Herb Jones, Riley Norris, and Dazon Ingram got in on the action as well. The Tide went into the half with a comfortable 33-27 lead that would have been totally unbelievable just 10 minutes before.
Alabama picked up right where they left off in the second half with Petty making a basket and then Tevin Mack (!) hitting back to back three point shots, then following that with some free throws. Coleman Coliseum was pumping, and it looked like Alabama was going to run away with the game. But, of course, they didn’t. Led by the efforts of freshman guard Myreon Jones off the bench, Penn State chipped away at Alabama’s 12 point lead until they finally caught up with the Tide at 49 points each.
The teams traded the lead back and forth for a little bit before Donta Hall took things into his own hands and scored 6 points in one minute, giving the Tide a little bit of breathing room. From there, Kira Lewis, who’d been nearly invisible all game, started hitting some baskets and drawing enough free throws to close out the game despite Penn State’s best efforts to drag things out. At the end, the Tide won by a solid 9 point margin, 73-64.
Donta Hall had a monstrous day, scoring 17 points while grabbing 11 rebounds abd blocking 3 shots. I’ve criticized Hall’s effort some so far his senior season, but his old energy was back tonight. He looked like he was having fun out there, and was throwing down dunks left and right.
John Petty also had one of his better games in Crimson. He only hit one three point shot, but seemed to make an effort to use his height under the rim and made some impressive passes in the lane. He wound up with 13 points and 5 rebounds, both good for second on the team behind Hall.
Tevin Mack was the only other player to crack double digits, doing a chunk of damage in his short stretch in the second half. He showed some offensive prowess at the start of both halves, but ultimately wound up on the bench by the end of the half both times.
Herbert Jones also had a great game. His 8 points aren’t great or anything, but he had 3 blocks and 3 steals, and was all over the place all game long.
This win truly was a team effort though, and Avery Johnson, Jr. was the only player not to get any points. Though their start to the game was absolutely awful, they recovered and started to show some promise at moving the ball in the lane and getting it to Hall, Mack, and Petty inside even when the opposing defense was shutting down outside shots. Being able to pass out of the pick-and-roll is a staple of Coach Avery Johnson’s offense and has been largely nonexistent so far this season, so seeing it in action tonight was a breath of fresh air.
Alabama will still have to develop an outside shooting presence to take the next step forward, but just getting down the ball movement in the lane is enough to leave me feeling optimistic.
Buckle Up, and Roll Tide