Well, we knew it had to come at some point. Even the Gumpiest of Gumps didn't expect the Tide to go 18-0 in conference play. In a showdown with second place Missouri, Bama came up just short by a score of 68-65. For the first 28 minutes of game action, a final score that close didn't seem possible. The Tide roared back from a 22 point deficit with a 21-2 run starting at the 12:38 mark, but couldn't overcome the poor shooting and defense that had put them in that hole to begin with. And about these 11 a.m. games, can we just stop with that already? Two Saturdays in a row the team has come out flat and had to battle to try to comeback. Coach Nate Oats said he told the players “ESPN wants us because we are the best team in the SEC, so we have to figure out a way to start better in these games.”
The Tide started out taking a 2-0 lead on a Herbert Jones layup-one of the few they made in the game- but things went downhill from there. The Tigers, who typically play a slow pace, went just the opposite and were beating Bama at their own game. Mizzou was driving the lane and getting out on fast breaks at a quick pace. Jones was called for his second tacky-tack foul with 12:56 left in the half and the Tigers opened things up, scoring at will and taking advantage of sloppy Tide ball handling. At the half the Tigers had a seemingly insurmountable 44-28 lead.
At the break the Tide had made 10-32 shots from the field, including 4-12 from deep and only 4-9 from the free throw line. Missouri shot a blistering 54% on 19-35 from the field, the majority at the rim, with only 2-10 from deep and 4-7 from the free throw line.
Alex Reese hit a three pointer as the second half started to make it a 44-31 game, but from there the Tigers took off. it didn’t help that Bama started 2-13 in the half from the field, and continued to let MU drive at will and miss free throws. Jahvon Quinerly hit a three pointer with 8:40 left to cut the margin to 18, and all of a sudden the Tide had new life. John Petty hit a three, Jaden Shackelford got an old-fashioned three point play on a drive and the Tide had it within five with 1:55 left. The defense had tightened up considerably, and after a steal and a foul Keon Ellis drained two free throws to make it a 66-63 game with 1:30 left. Another basket made it a 66-65 game with one minute left. Bama got the ball back with 21 seconds and called timeout with 10 on the shot clock. Oats called a play for Herb Jones to go to the hole. He beat his man off the dribble and had a great look, but couldn't get the bunny to fall. The Tide fouled and MU missed the free throw, giving Alabama another chance with 11.9 seconds left. Jones had another great look at the basket, and likely got fouled going up, but the official swallowed his whistle. The Tigers rebounded and made the ensuing free throws for a three point lead. Alex Reese made a great football pass to Jones at the top of the key who then passed to Shackelford in the corner, but his off balance three missed the mark and the Tide went down 68-65.
The Tide shot 12-34 in the second half with 5-13 from three and 8-12 from the free throw line. For the game the team finished a paltry 22-66 for 33%, 9-25 from deep, and an awful 12-21 from the free throw line. After being abused on the boards early they bounced back and finished with 43 rebounds, dished only six assists with 13 turnovers, 11 steals, and two blocks. The defense clamped down and held Mizzou to 9-27 shooting in the second half with 1-10 from deep and 5-7 from the free throw line. The Tigers had 45 rebounds, 11 assists, 16 turnovers, nine big blocks, and 11 steals.
Shackelford led the team with 15 points. He was joined in double figures by Ellis and Quinerly with 12 each, and Petty with 11. Petty and James Rojas had six rebounds each, followed by Ellis, Jones, and Josh Primo with five apiece. Petty earned the hard hat award for his play.
The game was lost in the paint and at the free throw line. Missouri outscored the Tide 46-22 inside, highlighting just how much the team misses Jordan Bruner against quality big men. Bruner and the Tide were playing their best ball when he went down with his knee injury. Alabama couldn't get in rhythm in any aspect of the game until the late rally. Two missed dunks, and nine missed free throws, as well as 13-41 shooting on two point attempts will not help you win any games. Since Oats eschews mid range shots, the 41 two point attempts were mostly all four feet or less from the basket. As far as the no call on Jones at the end, Oats said “for the most part officials in the league are pretty good, I haven't seen it on film yet but live I thought it was a foul.” The coach went on to say “we need to do a better job of not putting it in the officials hands at the end of the game.” Oats also said he needs to work to get Petty and Shackelford more clean shots, and that a huge key is to get Jones healthy.
Where does the Tide turn from here? Another road trip, this time to the other Columbia in South Carolina. The game will be Tuesday night at 5:30 C.T. and will be shown on the SEC Network. Hey, its great to be 10-1 and in first place in the SEC, I'm sure each of you would have taken that record back in October. The Tide needs to avoid the February jinx and get back to their wining ways.