The Alabama Crimson Tide got a huge road win on Tuesday night, defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks by a score of 68-62. With their backs against the wall after a three game losing streak, the Tide has bounced back with two straight victories to move to 17-11 overall and 8-7 in the SEC. Bama has won the last two games despite not reaching the magic 70 point mark. Prior to defeating Vanderbilt on Saturday 68-61 the Tide had not won a single game when tallying less than 70 points.
Once again coach Avery Johnson shortened the rotation, after explaining he had also shortened the practice schedule. After talking with former Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson earlier, Johnson said he has gone to 75 minutes practices late in the season instead of their normal 140 minute sessions. Sanderson did this late in the season during his tenure, and his teams always seemed to peak late in the year. Johnson played only eight guys in the Vanderbilt win, and used nine tonight. However Galin Smith only clocked four minutes, and Daniel Giddens 10. Dazon Ingram got hurt with a thigh contusion and missed the entire second half, playing only 16 minutes in the game.
After falling behind 2-0 early, the rest of the first half was all Alabama. The Gamecocks went over nine minutes without a field goal at one point, and only made 7-33 shots (21%) in the first half, including 1-9 from the three point line. Bama shot 13-31 for 42% and made 3-9 from behind the arc. The ‘Cocks stayed in the game at the free throw line, making 10-12 while the Tide was a miserable 2-7 from the charity stripe.
Alabama took control early and built a 13 point lead, and had the ball, with four minutes left in the half. Somehow, USCe battled back to only be trailing by a score of 31-25 at intermission.
In the second half, Bama was able to maintain a small 3-5 point lead up until about nine minutes left. With 7:15 left, the Gamecocks grabbed a 54-49 lead and the Tide looked to be on life support. Riley Norris and Herbert Jones (yes, Herbert!) hit back to back jump shots to tie the game at 56 with 5:15 left. Carolina made one free throw to take a 57-56 lead, before Kira Lewis made two freebies for the Tide. Donta Hall had a three point play and then Norris made the play of the game, grabbing a steal and driving the court to dunk (DUNK!) to give Bama a 63-57 lead with 2:20 left. Lewis hit some more free throws down the stretch to secure the victory for the Tide.
USCe improved to 13-32 (40%) in the second half, and were 8-11 from the free throw line. The Tide was 11-25 for 44%, and 12-15 from the free throw line. For the game, Bama shot 24-56 for 43%, 6-17 from deep for 35%, and 14-22 for 64% from the free throw line. Carolina was 20-65 in the game for 31%, 4-19 for 21% from deep, and 18-23 for 78% from the charity stripe. The Tide finally got back to outrebounding their opponent, this time by a 43-37 margin. Bama had 13 assists, 15 turnovers, three blocks, and three steals. USCe had nine assists, eight turnovers, six blocks, and seven steals.
Lewis led the way with 17 points in 37 minutes, followed by Hall with 15 points and 10 boards. The double-double was the 15th of the year for the Luverne native. Tevin Mack and Norris added 11 points a piece. John Petty struggled scoring again, following his goose egg on Saturday with only five points last night, but showed how much his overall game has improved by grabbing 10 rebounds. Chris Silva had a double-double of his own for the Gamecocks, with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
What a gutty, clutch performance for a team in desperate need of some wins. The win was the third road victory in the conference for the Tide, having defeated Missouri and Vanderbilt earlier in the year. The shortened practices and the shorter rotation seem to be just what the team has needed. For the second straight game Avery Johnson, Jr., and Alex Reese did not see action. As previously mentioned, Smith logged four minutes, and Giddens 10. With the Ingram injury, Norris and Herbert Jones had more playing time.
Next up is a big home game with the surprising LSU Tigers. The game is Saturday at 11 a.m. (breakfast with the Tide), and is set for ESPN/ESPN2.
Roll Tide, and Buckle Up
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