From an early age, I learned a rule of thumb when it came to college basketball. If that school was a strong football school, then I could assume their basketball team was generally subpar. And if they were a name I didn’t recognize (or Kentucky), then their hoops team was probably terrifying.
There’s always exceptions, like Ohio State and Florida in those years they won NCAA Championships in both sports in the same year, but, for the most part. It holds. Football and men’s basketball are inverses of each other at any given school.
Well I don’t know who makes those rules, but somehow or another, Alabama really got on their bad side.
In a season for football that saw multiple high-profile preseason injuries, games lost on what should have been gimme points, and the team’s best player being lost for the year in Starkville, we’ve now seen the exact same thing happen to the Tide’s basketball team.
James Rojas and Juwan Gary both were injured in preseason, leaving the Tide perilously thin at
linebacker forward. Kira Lewis, channeling his inner Alabama kicker, missed a couple of free throws at the start of the season that would have prevented the horrible loss to Penn. Javon Quinnerly, unlike everyone else in all of the NCAA, didn’t get a transfer waiver and has to sit out the season. Herb Jones has been playing with one usable arm almost all year.
And now Starkville, Mississippi strikes again. This time, instead of the Tide losing their star QB for the season, they’ve lost their most experienced player and best scorer on the team in John Petty, who fell to the ground with a Bulldog player landing awkardly on him. Sound familiar?
That said, we won’t know the extent of his injury until tomorrow. It could be a lot less significant than it looked live, but I wouldn’t count on it.
As for the game, it was a tough fought one from wire-to-wire. Alabama came out shooting hot the entire first half, but Mississippi State, of course, had probably their best offensive half of basketball in a decade. Alabama shot 47% on 17 three-point shots in the frenetic flurry of scoring that was the first half, but the Bulldogs held their own and the two teams changed leads 16 times.
The first half injury to John Petty, though, left Alabama with only 7 healthy players, and the Bulldog’s style of scrapping for every ball obviously wore on the short-handed Tide as the game went on.
The second half saw the Tide grow cold amidst a glacial Bulldog offense, 8 blocks by Mississippi State, and a never-ending onslaught of fouls— or the crowd begging for them, at least. After such an inspiring first half, they missed their first 12 three-point attempts of the second half, and only shot 20% from deep by the end of the game.
Meanwhile, the Alabama defense got more and more out of position as fatigue set in, and State’s offense, like a logging truck and a squirrel on a back country road, ran right over them without a second glance.
They shot 12/16 on non-threes in the second half (again... glacially slow pace... but efficient), and made 12/15 free throws. Alabama missed three straight free throws that would have put them back in striking distance at the end of the game, and a desperation three from Jaden Shackelford was too little, too late. Final score: 80-73.
Kira Lewis was brilliant all game long, racking up 29 points on a 50% three-point shooting and 58% overall. He was second on the team with 7 rebounds, and led the team with both 4 assists and 2 steals. He also added a blocked shot while only picking up a single foul all game long.
Shackelford, too, had a good game with 17 points and a team-high 9 rebounds without committing a single turnover. He had a few cold spells, and his 2/7 three point shooting wasn’t great, but he did make a lot happen under the basket— a nice addition to his usually deadly three-point game.
Herb Jones, with his one hand, made a lot of awesome hustle and defensive plays, but didn’t score a single point on offense and fouled out early in the game. Alex Reese struggled on offense as well, only getting five points and leading the team in turnovers. Galin Smith and Javion Davis were non-factors on offense and unable to slow down the Bulldog big men inside.
Beetle Bolden had to play nearly the entire game in Petty’s absence, and he added 11 points and a whole lot of energy.
This was a hard loss, especially seeing the Tide play with so much effort and energy, but ultimately being totally outmatched under the basket and decimated by injury led to the game being wrested from their control.
IF they win out, there’s a very, very slim chance they could get into the NCAA tournament. Realistically, though, the only real shot at making it will be to get hot in the SEC tournament and nab an auto-bid. And if John Petty is unable to go, the prospects on that are slim as well.
It’s been a season of a lot of what-ifs going the wrong way, and it would be easy for the team to have totally packed it in as soon as Petty went down, writhing in pain. But they didn’t, and that’s a testament in itself to this team’s mental toughness and their coaching.
And, hey, it’s not over just yet.