Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Crimson Castrates Cocks! Alabama 90 South Carolina 86 (4OT)

It took a full hour of playing time to do it, but Alabama has its first road win over a top 20 team in 13 years.

So much happened in this game, I don't even know where to start.  There was a change in the starting lineup again with Hall getting the nod over Jimmie.  It was a sloppy game, as was somewhat expected between two defensive minded teams that like to play half-court games.

The defense was phenomenal in the first half and for most of the game.  Despite having too many unforced turnovers, we doubled them up for a 32-16 halftime lead.  Carolina played much better in the second half, but Bama answered when needed and managed to maintain a double digit lead going into the final minutes.

Given our foul trouble, inability to make free throws, and turnover problems, I was okay with taking the air out of the ball and trying to hold on for dear life in the final 4 minutes with a 12 point lead.  Unfortunately, when Carolina finally started pressing with 2 minutes left, we could not hold onto the basketball.  The Cocks came from behind rather quickly, and tied us up forcing overtime.

There are not enough superlatives to properly illustrate the heart and poise this team showed in the overtimes.  With our two best players fouled out (Dazon and Key) after underwhelming performances, and after losing all momentum on the road against a top 20 team, things certainly appeared bleak.  No matter how many opportunities to win the game we missed, somebody would step up and bring us back to keep fighting.

Shannon Hale returned from his leg injury, and actually played hard and contributed to the win by making 6 free throws and grabbing 6 rebounds.  He also nearly cost us the game with a stupid technical foul in the 2nd overtime that led to Carolina taking a 7 point lead.  Somehow, Bama answered with an 8 point run of their own.

AJ and  Davis of all people kept us in the game with their hot shooting.  They scored 23 and 19 respectively, and AJ somehow managed to grab 6 rebounds as well.  After not doing much in regulation, Riley was huge in overtime, scoring 9 of his 11 points.  He made the final 4 free throws that proved to be the difference in the game.

Speaking of free throws, Thornwell was a beast.  He scored 44 points, had 21(!) rebounds, and went 25 of 33 from the free throw line.  Thankfully we kept everybody else off the boards and out-rebounded them by 10.

With the win, Bama moves a game ahead of Arkansas in the SEC standings for the all important 4th place.  Florida, Kentucky, and Carolina are in a 3 way tie for first.  In an ideal world, we hold onto a top 4 spot and get the double-bye in the SEC tournament while staying on the opposite side of Kentucky, but there is a lot of basketball still to be played over the next month.

Up next, speaking of Kentucky, the Cats come to Coleman for a high noon tip-off Saturday.  It's a hard sellout, and will be broadcast nationally on CBS.  This will be our first CBS game in several years.  UK will certainly bring a large contingent of blue clad fans.  If you are going to the game, please be nice and welcoming to our visitors.  I've made several trips to Rupp and their fans have always been first class win or lose.  It's my favorite trip in the SEC, and I hope they leave with a good impression of us.  As for the game itself, I suggest drinking heavily.  While it's not quite as bad of a matchup for us as it has been the last few years, and they haven't been playing their best lately, I still can't see anyway for us to win this one.  I hope we can keep it respectably close.

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