Alabama found themselves in another must win situation on Saturday, but fell to 13th ranked LSU by a score of 74-69. The Tide was in position to pull off the upset late, but couldn't muster up stops or baskets at key times down the stretch. Bama fell to 17-12, 8-8 with the loss, while LSU improved to 24-5, 14-2.
The Tide has struggled with slow starts that they can't overcome this season, and today was no different. LSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead early. Bama finally broke through to score, and with Herbert Jones (!!!) hitting a couple of three pointers, stayed within striking distance. Alabama eventually fought back to take a 24-23 lead on a John Petty three with just over three minutes remaining in the half. The Tigers entered the intermission leading by a 29-28 score, as both teams shot horribly. LSU was 11-32 for 34%, including 3-11 (27%) from deep and 4-11 (36%) from the free throw line. Alabama was as bad, 9-31 (29%) from the field, 4-14 for 28% from deep and 6-14 for 43% from the free throw line. Petty had 12 points at the break and Jones had nine.
The Tigers built a six point lead early in the second half, but the Tide kept battling back. Coach Avery Johnson was hit with a technical foul after a missed goaltending call on a shot by Donta Hall. Soon after, Riley Norris hit a three and Kira Lewis dropped a floater in the lane as Bama grabbed a 42-41 lead with 12:25 left. After a monster Hall dunk the Tide had surged to a 49-43 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
The margin was erased on a three pointer by LSU, and the Tide was playing catchup for the final 3:50 of the game, cutting the deficit to 64-63 with just over a minute left. Down 66-63 with one minute left, senior Riley Norris made an ill-advised pass that was stolen and taken the length of the court for a dunk with 42 seconds left. From there, the Tide tried to catch up by fouling and shooting threes, but Skylar Mays connected on 8 of 8 down the stretch to offset a couple of late long threes by John Petty.
Second half shooting improved for both teams, 17-34 for the Tigers, with 1-6 from deep and 10-11 from the stripe. Bama was 15-33 for 45% with 4-12 from behind the arc and 7-9 from the line. For the game, LSU was 28-66 for 42%, 4-17 for 23% from deep, and 14-22 for 63% from the free throw line. Bama finished at 37%, 24-64, with 8-26 from three and 13-23 from the stripe. The Tigers won the boards 48-40, and had 11 assists, 11 turnovers, and nine big steals. Bama had 11 assists, 13 turnovers, and only one steal.
Hall had another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes. Petty led in scoring with 23 on 5-9 three point shooting in 38 minutes. Norris had 13 points and nine rebounds in 32 minutes. Jones had one of his better games in a while with 11 points, three rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. Dazon Ingram, who was honored on Senior Day, despite being a redshirt junior, played 12 minutes and scored one point. Tevin Mack started, played 13 minutes, and failed to score. Lewis was an uncharacteristic 3-16 from the field, and finished with only seven points with four assists.
This was a big disappointment for the Tide with a chance to make a statement. Playing pretty much even with the 13th ranked team in the country is okay, but finishing the game and grabbing a victory is what was needed. This team is a frustrating group to watch and pull for, with swings of playing unbelievably well to playing horridly. They need to regroup and try to take one of the next two, Auburn at home and Arkansas on the road, and then try to steal a couple of games in the SEC Tournament.
The Tide has another chance on Tuesday, March 5th to get a much needed win when Auburn comes to town for a 8 p.m. tip off. The game can be seen on the ESPN Family of channels.
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