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Tide drops finale against Ags 68-66, ends season on five-game skid

That was suboptimal

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Texas A&M

I remember when basketball was fun. Seems like it was just 3 weeks ago. Oh, it was?

C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

Mired in a four-game losing skid which has featured losing by nearly 20 a piece to Auburn and Florida (the latter on Senior’s night, no less) Coach Avery Johnson decided to give his moribund Tide team a wake-up call.

In this case, it was a literal wake-up call in the form of a hearty 6 a.m. practice.

Like every other motivational ploy, coaching move, lineup shuffle, tough love, and love-love Johnson has attempted with these guys this season, it didn’t work — Alabama again folded down the stretch like a Russian rhythm gymnast.

I’m not going to recap the contest in its entirety; that’s not my forte here. Rather, the game was notable for a few things:

  • Alabama played stellar first-half defense, and went into the locker up by a point in an ugly 25-24 affair. Then Second Half ‘Bama showed up and allowed 44 points, largely in the paint, as A&M gooned the Tide down low, hitting 37 of its 68 points inside. Like contests against Texas’ Mo Bamba, Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, Kentucky, Mississippi State (and too many others), Alabama was helpless to stop concerted efforts by physical interior teams.
  • Collin Sexton balled out with 23 points (mainly at the line), 7 dimes, and 4 rebounds. Donta Hall did his best against a pair of 7-footers, putting in 12 and netting six boards.
  • The troika of Sexton, Key, and Ingram had awful shooting days, though John Petty did have his hustle britches on, grabbing 8 rebounds.
  • Missed free throws — meaningful missed free throws, again cost the Tide late in a one-possession game. Alabama is now 13th in a 14-team league, making just 66.9% of its attempts at the stripe. Meanwhile, the 17-14 Tide has lost eight games by two possessions or less. Think making a few of those would have been helpful? ‘Bama shot 61.3% from the free throw line on Saturday. Given how tight this game was played, and the general parity in everything from offensive rebounds to turnovers, this is where you can rightly point your finger for the loss.
  • Aggies G JR Starks got into an altercation with Collin Sexton, finger-pointing and appearing to shove Sexton’s skull. He was tossed, and then issued a half-assed apology on Twitter.
  • Texas A&M went 4 for 21 (19%) and the Crimson Tide went 5 of 24 (20.8%) from the perimeter. For the game, Aggie shot 39% from the field and the Tide was 37.5%. As expected, A&M did win the battle on the glass, but it wasn’t stark — Alabama played good positional basketball when the ball was in the air. The tally was just 46-40 A&M, and the OR were very close (16 vs. 14).

In sum, it was a hard-fought, physical game that the Crimson Tide could have won. In a familiar script, bad perimeter shooting and bad misses at the line were the difference. The five guys on the court let a win slip through their hands, no one else.

When a free three isn’t free, there shall be the Crimson Tide.

Alabama is now the 9-seed in the SEC tournament, and its reward for a five-game losing streak is a 7-hour drive to St. Louis for the early game on Thursday against these same No. 8 seed Texas A&M Aggies. We’ll have more on that upcoming contest later this week.