Alabama is now on a 4 game winning streak, including 2 over top 25 teams with all 4 wins being away from the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum.
Rebounding has been a weakness for this team all year, and then we lost our leading rebounder for the season, before going to play a road game against a team known for winning the battle for the boards. So, naturally we would out rebound them 44-30, including 21 offensive rebounds, because, basketball.
I thought we played about as well as could possibly be expected in the first half. For the most part, we were able to keep the pace up, and knocking down some 3s early really set the tone for the game. We built a double-digit lead, but would go through periodic dry spells when the Tigers would go on a brief run and make it a one possession game, but we almost always answered and were able to take an 8 point lead into the half.
Clemson dictated the tempo for much of the second half. Give them credit for sticking around and coming back to take the lead late in the game. Even with our success on the offensive glass, we had a 9 minute stretch where we only scored one field goal. Taylor, Hall, and Kessens all missed bunnies that could have made the end of this game much less dramatic.
Coach Johnson had a great game plan defensively. We fronted Blossomgame to deny him the ball, and double teamed him as soon as he got it. This came at the cost of giving more opportunities to Nnoko, who was almost able to pick up enough of the slack to beat us.
Shannon Hale frustrates me at times, and he had a few unforced turnovers again today, but obviously he made the big play when it was needed most. Out of a timeout trailing by 1, he stole the in-bounds pass and beat his man down the court for an uncontested dunk that proved to be the game winner. Perhaps more importantly, he did a great job defensively in denying the ball to Blossomgame. He did a lot of things defensively that won't be reflected in the box score.
On the other hand, Retin Obasohan's performance will jump off the page of the box score. He put up 23 points going 4 of 7 from three point range. He was fantastic on both ends of the floor, and he was primarily responsible for stopping Clemson's last scoring chance.
I still think Donta Hall should be playing more. He had 4 points in 7 minutes including an impressive block on the defensive end followed by running the floor and getting an open dunk at the other.
With Dazon out, Justin Coleman is going to have to step up, and I thought he did a good job overall tonight. He didn't score very much, but he led the team with 5 assists and I thought he made some great passes. Even when Clemson was able to force us into half-court sets, I thought we had good spacing and very good execution on the pick n' roll and pick n' pop plays. We opened the space under the basket for our screeners, and the guards were efficient in getting the ball to them in their cuts.
One very minor complaint about the ending of the game, we nearly turned the ball over on the in-bounds with 3 seconds remaining. With neither team having any timeouts remaining, it's unwise to risk a contested pass under your own basket. We should have had someone go long, and in the event the count got to 4 with nobody clearly open, throw it into the frontcourt for a 50/50 proposition. As long as we touch the ball, even if we turn it over, they would have the ball in their backcourt with 2 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
Up next, we finally return home to face a solid Winthrop Eagles team at 8 pm Wednesday night. I know it's the holiday season and students aren't on campus, and I also realize Wednesday is a church night, which is a big deal in a smallish town in the Bible belt like Tuscaloosa, but this team is coming home 6-2, after playing 5 games away from home, in which they were underdogs in 4 of them. It would be nice to have a big supportive crowd to show them how appreciative and proud we are of what they've already been able to accomplish this year. More importantly, we could use some positive energy in the building to help prevent a let down. Winthrop comes in at 6-2, and we'll need to play more like we did tonight as opposed to how we played against Southern Miss if we want to keep this winning streak going.