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Alabama Basketball Falls to Tennessee: 69-68

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An onslaught of fouls doom the Tide in the second half

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama led for 81% of the game, outshot Tennessee in both three-point range and overall, and led by 15 points.

And then lost.

This was honestly about as frustrating of a game to watch as you’ll find, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that it’s Alabama’s 3rd loss in a row after a major hot streak just a few weeks ago.

Both teams started rather slowly, taking a little while to find some offensive rhythm, especially with Alabama trying to work in Javian Davis from his bum knee and Beetle Bolden in his first game back from his illness. Once both teams got to 10 points, though, the Tide really turned it. Nearly everyone on the team got involved in a frenetic scoring outburst that saw the Tide score 18 points in 6 minutes to only 4 from Tennessee, racing out to 14 point lead. Davis, Bolden, Kira Lewis, Jaylen Forbes, Jaden Shackelford, and John Petty all scored in that short amount of time, showing just how dangerous Alabama’s offense can be when things are clicking.

Things held steady for a little while after that, and back to back Alex Reese three pointers (sandwiching a steal and subsequent turnover for the forward) a little later gave Alabama their largest lead of the game with under four minutes left in the half. Things went downhill after that, and a laundry list of turnovers and fouls saw the Tide only score four more points while Tennessee closed the lead to 8 points.

Unfortunately, the second half was just one long, excruciating torture device of fouls, turnovers, and long stretches without scoring for Alabama. They only scored two baskets in the first 5 minutes, though both were three-pointers. On the bright side, Tennessee struggled just as much to score despite all the free possessions, and it took Alabama only scoring 4 points in 6 minutes for the Volunteers to tie the game up at 50 points each.

Alabama did turn their offense back into gear at that point, with Kira Lewis gutting out a number of baskets, including one magical no-look reverse layup that still makes no sense by all known understandings of physics in the corporeal realm.

The resurgence died once Alabama got to 61 points with 5 minutes left, though. Javian Davis and Alex Reese both fouled out (Reese’s foul was particularly... unnecessary), leaving Alabama with Galin Smith as the only big man left. The Volunteers absolutely crushed Alabama in rebounding all game, but it got worse after that with the Tide so undersized. Then Smith fouled out too, and Alabama played the last 2 minutes with five guards.

Nearly all of Tennessee’s points were on free throws, and they climbed up to a four point lead with a minute left. Kira Lewis made a great play to drive under the basket and dish the ball to Petty for a dunk and get it back to one possession with 39 seconds left, and the Tide defense held stout and got the ball back with 16 seconds to go.

Lewis tried the same move again, but this time it was Jaylen Forbes coming down into baseline, and the freshman took an extra dribble after receiving the pass, and wound up getting his shot swatted away.

Tennessee made both free throws to get a 4-point lead, and Kira Lewis raced down the court and launched a 3-point buzzer beater to make the game a 1-point loss.

Lewis had an up and down day with 5 turnovers and only 3 rebounds, but he was Alabama’s only consistent scorer as he led with 19 points. Jaden Shackelford was the only other player to get into double digits with 12.

John Petty didn’t get many shot opportunities, but he led the team with 11 rebounds (nobody else had more than 4) and 7 assists.

Alabama hit 41% of their three point shots to only 11% from Tennessee, with an overall shooting advantage of 46% to 36%. The problem was, Alabama was significantly outrebounded, most egregiously giving up 19 offensive rebounds. Considering the Tide only had 24 defensive rebounds, it was very nearly a 50/50 ball every time Tennessee shot.

On top of the rebound disparity, Alabama turned the ball over 20 times to only 13 from Tennessee, giving up 21 points to only 14 of their own. And then there was the fouls. Many ranged from ticky-tack to flat out horrible calls, but just as many came from undisciplined play as Alabama got more and more emotional and desperate late in the game, with each weak foul feeding into more angst from the team, coaches, and home crowd. Ultimately, Tennessee got to shoot 32 free throws while Alabama only got to shoot 8.

So, if you want to know how to lose a game despite being the far superior team at actually shooting the ball, this was it.

After three straight losses, Alabama has a little soul-searching to do. The piling of injuries obviously has the Tide very, very limited right now, but that doesn’t excuse the turnover-riddled play of the guys on the court right now, and Coach Oats will have to find a way to balance the fast pace he wants with a little more consistent and controlled play.