First the bad news. Jackonsville out-quicked and out-hustled Alabama for almost all of the first half. It was not clear whether Bama was playing at three-quarter speed or Jacksonville simply was faster, but the visitors beat the home team on both ends of the court for most of the first twenty minutes. The guards seemed unwilling or unable to get the ball to Jacobs who was constantly battling for open positions near the basket. The Tide had no answer for the Dolphins' offense in the first half. They constantly found open shots both underneath and away from the basket, most coming off of the types of picks Alabama never has seemed able to set. Alabama's free throwing was anemic. Fortunately Jacksonville's was worse. But for the free throw shooting, all of that changed in the second half.
Now for the good news. Bama's defense was much better in the second half. Admittedly, some of that seemed attributable to Jacksonville's having expended too much of their available energy in the first half. But the Bama zone also stopped the Dolphins drives to the hoop and traps generated turnovers. The Tide shot 40 percent outside the arc, hitting six in the first half and missing all four second half efforts. Lacye hit one, Releford two, and Mitchell three. Bama eventually stretched out a ten point lead, but the Dolphins cut it in half just before the buzzer, due largely to lazy play by the home team.
Coach Grant evidently reminded his team at halftime that Nick Jacobs was on the floor, so they fed the ball to him with good success early after the intermission. Jacobs was slowed later by the Jacksonville zone, but his hustle was important on both ends of the court again tonight. Releford and Lacey both were able to drive to the basket with success, while Randolph and Cooper found ways to score points.
Releford led all scorers with 18. Mitchell added 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. Lacey threw in 11 points, followed by Jacobs with 9 and Cooper's 7. Randolph's hustle contributes in many ways that don't often show up in the box score, but he led all Bama rebounders with 8 and added three assists. Here is a box score with more detailed information. The page includes some nice photos I cannot link from this computer. Here's another link to the photo gallery on the rolltide.com website.
The other nice surprise (to this writer) was the first appearance of Moussa Gueye. He stepped onto the court with about four minutes left in the game, grabbed one rebound and fought hard for position underneath the basket. The one time they got the ball to him in position he turned it over. He also mishandled two other rebounds. He still should be able to contribute, but after two years off the court his skills are rusty and he's almost certainly not in playing shape yet after having nursed his knee.
All things considered it was a good win in front of a home crowd of about 12,000. I'm glad I made the trip and hope to see you all when we host LSU in about two weeks.