We seem to say this every week. But, is this the best win of the Avery Johnson era?
What a difference three days make. The Alabama Crimson Tide was left for dead after losing a home game to Missouri on Wednesday. However, like Lazarus, the Tide rose from the dead and blew No. 23 Florida out 68-50 in Gainesville, in an arena the Tide have traditionally struggled in.
To paraphrase Nick Saban, “Y’all had us dead, gone, six feet under.”
The Tide started out slowly, turning the ball over at an alarming rate to begin the game. Florida shot out to a 24-15 lead before Avery Johnson, Jr. helped resurrect the team with a couple of baskets. Collin Sexton was his usual brilliant self, and between the two they kept ‘Bama in the game despite 14 turnovers and nine fouls in the first half. At the break Florida lead 33-27. The Tide had shot the ball well in the first frame, (11-21, 54%, 3-7, 42% from deep,) but ended too many possessions without even getting a shot off. Florida helped out by only shooting 42% (12-26, 3-11 from deep.) And the Tide manufactured some of its own fortune on the class, leading in rebounds 17-11.
Sexton started the second half with a finger roll hoop, and the Tide scored the first eight points to take a 35-33 lead. From that point, the teams went back and forth for a few minutes, and were still tied 43-43 with a little over 11 minutes left.
‘Bama poured it on from there: Junior hit a three, Herbert Jones hit a couple of baskets, and Donta Hall had dunks on three straight possessions to stretch the lead out. Braxton Key joined the parade, and had an outstanding second half, after starting the game on the bench.
Alabama ended the game outscoring the Gators 41-17 in the second half playing outstanding defense, crashing the boards, and running, running, running. (I guess they read Roll ‘Bama Roll, huh?) When this team plays fast and loose, they can compete with anyone.
‘Bama ended the game shooting 56%, bu just 30% from three-point range. Free throw shooting again was bad, 50%, and the team was fortunate that didn't hurt them. The Tide totally dominated the glass by a 43-25 margin. After 14 first half turnovers, the team took much better care of the basketball and ended up with (still too many) 19. Alabama dished out 12 assists and had four blocks and six steals. UF only shot 33% from the field and a woeful 20% from three-point range. The Gators committed 12 turnovers and had nine assists, three blocks and 12 steals. In a reversal of Wednesday night’s home loss, ‘Bama’s bench dominated, outscoring the Gators 29-1.
Several players had big games for the Tide. Sexton lead the way with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block in 31 minutes. During his time on the bench, he had a heating pad on his abdomen and an ice pack on his neck. Hall played 28 minutes and was a perfect 7-7 from the field for 14 points and added 11 rebounds, a block and a steal. Key looked like 2017 Key, coming off the bench for 13 points on 5-7 shooting and adding five rebounds and two assists. The MVP very well may have been Johnson, Jr. who scored 10 with a couple of boards and assists. Junior hit a couple of shots in the first half at a critical junction of the game, and helped finish things off at the end. His 21 minutes mostly came at the expense of John Petty who was 0-2 in 18 minutes. Dazon Ingram played a solid 32 minutes and had eight points and seven rebounds. Jones added six points and played his usual brilliant defense in 23 minutes.
Coach Avery Johnson shortened the rotation a good bit, Alex Reese didn't play at all, and Daniel Giddens, although he started, played just seven minutes. Galin Smith logged six minutes. The touted match up between Chris Chiozza and Sexton was decidedly one-sided. Despite playing 35 minutes, Chiozza only scored four points on 2-for-9 shooting. Sexton and company controlled him, and he was never a factor.
The win put ‘Bama in 3rd place in the SEC and is right back in the talk for the NCAA tournament. The team is 6-2 in its last eight games, with wins over #11 Auburn, #12 Oklahoma, and #23 Florida. Also, with the victory, Johnson’s teams are now 2-0 in Gainesville after the Tide went a decade without a victory there.
The Tide takes the court next Tuesday in Starkville against a Mississippi State team that they have already beaten at home. ‘State is 15-6 (4-5) and boasts an RPI of 63. Ben Howland’s young team has been particularly effective at home, so this is yet another tought, quality opponent for the Tide. The game is at 6 p.m. CT and can be seen on the SEC Network. The team really needs to keep the momentum, and a third road victory would go a long way to spring-boarding them into March Madness.
RTR and Buckle Up
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