For a half, it looked like the same old, same old for Alabama. Collin Sexton was the entire offense, nobody else could buy an outside shot, and Auburn was getting far too many second chances. Down 41-31 at the break, it looked for all the world that the Tide would limp into selection Sunday hoping for a little charity.
Fortunately for the Tide, there was another half to play.
Dr. Jekyll showed up just in time after the break, as the Tide put on a performance reminiscent of the second halves against Florida and Tennessee earlier in the season. They outscored the Tigers 50-22, led by 21 of Sexton’s game-high 31. Collin came into the tournament on a cold streak from outside, but he’s been on fire in St. Louis. He shot 10-16 overall, 6-8 from behind the arc, and made all five of his free throws in an all-time performance. He also added seven rebounds to help the Tide turn the tables in that area from the last time these two teams met. Oh, and he only had one assist, but it was a pretty good one.
Have a day, Collin.
Dazon Ingram and Donta Hall were the main supporting cast members in this one with 14 and 11, respectively, while combining for 13 rebounds. Galin Smith got a surprise start at the four and acquitted himself well, making all three of his field goal attempts and pulling down six boards of his own. Herb Jones was the fifth starter and didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but he did play his usual outstanding defense. Braxton Key came off the bench to add nine points on 2-5 shooting plus 5-6 at the line, and he led the team with 10 important rebounds. The whole team seemed to take the rebounding issue personally, and it showed.
This, folks, looked like the team that we thought we had coming into the season. They used their length and athleticism to stifle the opponent, pushed the ball at every opportunity, and knocked down enough from outside to force the defense to spread out. From there they attacked the basket with a purpose and finished well at the rim. They also made 70% of the 30 free throw attempts earned in the process.
Unfortunately this win didn’t come without a cost. Daniel Giddens went down with a non-contact knee injury and it didn’t look good. Donta Hall was tabletopped and landed on his head, and Alex Reese left with injury as well. Needless to say, Hall in particular is critical to this team’s success.
Avery Johnson says he has “no idea yet” if Donta Hall will be available to play tomorrow. “No word yet but I will check with our medical staff as soon as this press conference is over.”— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) March 9, 2018
We will let you know if we hear anything. Bruce Pearl took exception to something that happened in the postgame handshake and acted like a child on the court as he is wont to do. We’ll update as we find out more about that, too.
The Tide now moves on to play at noon tomorrow against the winner of the upcoming Georgia-Kentucky game.
Buckle up and Roll Tide.