In a must-win game against one of the worst teams in the league, the Alabama Crimson Tide took care of business at home, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 89-74 on Wednesday night. Tevin Mack and Kira Lewis were the shining stars, combining for 49 points on 20-33 shooting on the night. Mack made 5-7 from deep and led the team with 25, while Lewis added 24, mostly on explosive drives to the basket. Bama improved to 14-8, 5-4 in the SEC. UGA fell to 10-12, 1-8 in the league.
The Tide started out slow and fell behind quickly by scores of 5-0, 9-3, and 13-7, before heating up. Galin Smith entered the game for Donta Hall and made his presence felt immediately, scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds in just five minutes. Unfortunately, Smith had a collision down low and hit the deck, suffering a concussion and was unable to return to the game. The five minutes the sophomore played were arguably the best he has looked in a ‘Bama uniform.
Hall reentered the game and soon after collected his second foul, forcing coach Avery Johnson to turn to the little-used Daniel Giddens. Georgia has a big, physical, front line and the Tide needed to counter with size and bulk. Giddens helped steady the ship, and Bama took a 41-38 lead into the locker room.
The Tide shot 17-32 (53%) in the first frame, including 3-10 from deep and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line. UGA started hot, but tailed off, and ended up shooting 16-33 for 48% in the half, including 2-8 from deep. The physical ‘Dawgs went 4-7 from the free throw line. At the end of one, Lewis had 12 points and Mack tallied 11.
Mack came out firing in the second half, hitting two long-range jumpers to build the lead to a comfortable margin. Lewis chipped in a couple of buckets, and the Tide was off and running. John Petty and Dazon Ingram joined in on the fun, combining for a pass (from Ingram ) and a huge dunk (from Petty) to stretch the lead to 15 points. With Smith out, and Hall committing another foul, Giddens was called on again, and answered with a basket and a couple of free throws.
Hall didn't score until about five minutes were left in the game when he broke away for a thunderous dunk. With just under two minutes left fan favorite Lawson Schaffer entered the game for the Tide with a 83-69 lead. Several missed free throws and a couple of baskets later the Bulldogs had cut the lead to 84-74 with one minute remaining. Ingram and Lewis hit a pair of free throws each to secure the Tide’s 89-74 victory as the clock ran out.
The Tide scorched the nets to the tune of 16-26 (62%) and 4-8 from three-point range in the second half. The ‘ole free throw woes came back late, with the Crimson Tide going just 12-20 (60%) in the second stanza. For the game the Tide shot a season high from the floor (33-of-58 for 57%) and went 7-of-18 for 39% from deep, and 16-of-24 for 66% from the free throw line.
Georgia is the worst shooting team in the league as Parker noted in the preview, and they finished just 29-71 for 40% including 6-25 (24%) from three-point range, 10-16 for 62% from the free throw line. The larger Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 38-37, mostly as a function of Hall being limited to only 18 minutes on the floor. The Tide had 12 assists, 12 turnovers, three blocks and six steals. The Bulldogs committed 13 turnovers and dished 15 assists with four blocks and three steals.
Mack was the leading scorer in the game with his 25, adding six rebounds and two assists. Lewis tied his career high with his 24 and also had seven assists and four rebounds. Ingram scored 11 points with three rebounds and three assists. Petty scored eight and grabbed five rebounds. Hall only had three points, but did lead the team with eight rebounds in only 18 minutes of action.
The Tide did what they needed to do and dominated an inferior team after an uneven early effort. This team doesn’t always do that, and it was good to see. Bama is dangerous when they get out and use their athleticism running the floor, and can add in Mack and or Petty being hot from three.
Mack showcased all of his repertoire — the dead-eye long-range shooting, the drive to the hoop, the use of his size and strength to score inside. Lewis is simply just electric. The 17-year old freshman got to the hole at will, blowing by defenders, and finishing with a dizzying array of moves under the basket. Smith and Giddens helped make up for Hall’s lack of scoring with their combined 10 points. They, alongside Mack and Lewis’s big nights, offset the 10 combined points by Petty and Riley Norris.
This was a good one against a bad opponent, and next the Tide takes on the worst team in the league, when they travel to Nashville to play Vanderbilt on Saturday. The game is at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be shown on the SEC Network. Alabama has notoriously played poorly in the quirky Memorial Gym in Nashville, but this is a historically-bad Commodore team, which has failed to win a single conference game. The Tide should take the win, and if not it would be a terrible loss.
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