Well, that was an all-around not-very-fun game to watch...
Just before the game, we learned that John Petty, the Tide’s leading scorer and most-senior player, was not going to start the game due to lackluster practice leading up to the game, while back-up point guard Beetle Bolden was going to miss the game due to sickness.
All this against arguably the best team in the SEC. Sure. Fine. It’s not like we didn’t already have zero depth on the team after all the preseason injuries and unexpected denying of waivers.
Despite the mountain of inconveniences stacked against them (including playing in Louisiana), Alabama started strong. Jaden Shackelford, getting a team high 38-minutes, opened up with a 3-pointer for the Tide. Shackelford, along with Alex Reese, hit a combined four three-pointers in the first 9 minutes to keep Alabama neck and neck with an LSU team that was absolutely abusing the Tide on rebounds and shredding their defense like a block of Havarti on a freshly sharpened grater.
After Reese’s last three pointer, Alabama took their shredded cheese, put it in a skillet, and proceeded to melt down so thoroughly you could dip a tortilla chip in it. Over the next five minutes, LSU scored 20 points to only 4 from the Tide. Alabama did manage to start scoring some again, but still went into halftime down 51-33. After their four early three-point baskets, Alabama finished out the first half shooting only 4/20 on threes.
Alabama did make a valiant attempt in the second half, chipping away at the lead with some great efforts from Kira Lewis and Jaylen Forbes and bringing the lead down to single digits with 13 minutes to go in the game. Unfortunately, a quick series of plays basically doomed Alabama for the rest of the game. Shackelford turned the ball over, giving way to a fast-break dunk from the Tigers. On the inbounds pass, the LSU defender turned around to find the pass landing directly in the hands and immediately put it right back up in the basket. With the Tide reeling, Alex Reese tried to force a quick three-pointer (which he airballed), and LSU ran it right back down the court for another score.
It was a 6-point swing in a matter of seconds, and with a tangible pop, the tenuous confidence that Alabama had been building wheezed out like a shish kabobbed balloon. They continued to score enough to keep the game in the 11-15 point range, but the game was, for all purposes, over after that horrible series halfway through the second half.
Shackelford had a very nice game as the freshman got significantly more playing time with Bolden out and Petty benched to start the game. He led the team with 21 points and only gave up 2 turnovers and a single foul in 38 minutes of play time. Alex Reese and Kira Lewis has 17 and 13 points respectively, and nobody else really had any notable stats.
John Petty was basically a non-factor on offense, but he did show some hustle in other aspects of the game, picking up 7 rebounds in a game where Alabama was outmatched on the boards to the tune of 49-31.
All in all, a team just can’t get out-rebounded so thoroughly, give up 50 points in the paint with an energy-devoid defense, and only hit 26% of 38 three point attempts and expect to not get blown out.
LSU’s size was an utter mismatch for a small Alabama team underneath the basket, and John Petty being an absolute non-factor for the Tide offense ultimately doomed the Tide before the game ever started.
On one hand, this is a game that Alabama came in to short-handed and then had an off performance from their best shooter, and you can probably just write it off as that and nothing more. On the other hand, it is disconcerting to see just how thin the team is and totally unable to generate the scoring they have to without Petty or Lewis having great games.
Getting out-rebounded and giving up that many points in the paint against a much larger team was to be expected, but missing 28 three-point shots (a huge chunk of which were on open looks) is just not acceptable.
Oh, and totally missing defenders on quick and lazy inbounds passes has become a huge problem the last three weeks. So much so that opposing coaches are now having a defender intentionally hang back for an extra second on occasion to try and get a free pickpocket.
These are things that will HAVE to be addressed for the Tide to continue to hope for a strong finish in SEC play and make a bid for the NCAA tournament.