Dazon Ingram stepped up in the second half to help the Tide overcome a horrific offensive performance on the road.
This game started out like so many others, with Bama playing great defense and dominating the boards, but unable to fully take advantage due to unforced errors and God-awful shooting. As much as Coach Johnson talks about "on-time on-target" passing, we have an inordinate number of passes that are neither of those things, much less both.
Coach Kim Anderson was wearing a mic, and he correctly pointed out during the first timeout that Alabama was out-hustling them, coming up with every loose ball up to that point. Credit to Mizzou, they seemed to play a lot harder after that. They took advantage of Alabama shooting 2 of 20 including a 6 minute scoring drought and something like 12 minutes without making a shot from the field to slowly build a 10 point lead.
I'm not sure why Coach Johnson has suddenly fallen in love with the zone. I could understand it as a change of pace, especially against a Mizzou team that was not shooting well, but I think we stayed in it a bit too long again. I know that normally we prefer a slower paced game, but I think in this particular matchup we could have picked up the tempo a bit as we were the more athletic team. With the offense struggling, we should have played more aggressively on defense to try to generate some offense with turnovers and transition. Furthermore, it plays away from our biggest strength which is our rebounding. We were actually out-rebounded in the first half in large part due to the switch to the zone.
AJ made a big 3 at the end of the first half to cut the lead to 5 at 23-18. It was one of the ugliest halves of basketball we have played this year, but we found a way to keep it close. Against a better team, this game probably would have been over at halftime.
We started slow in the second half and allowed the Tigers to stretch the lead back to 9. It seemed like every time we would get within striking distance we would make a crucial mistake and Mizzou would regain control. When they went on a 6-0 run to take an 8 point lead with around 7 minutes remaining, after making a ridiculous 3 that bounced off the rim 5 times before going in, it appeared that perhaps it just would not be Alabama's night. However, as this team has done all year, they continued to scrap. Jimmie Taylor stepped up with some huge shots in the paint before fouling out. The man defense locked them down, and Bola and company dominated the glass.
We caught a huge break when the officials missed an obvious out-of-bounds call and awarded the ball to Alabama after it clearly went off Dazon. Dazon cashed in the opportunity, making back to back 3s to give Bama the lead for good. That wasn't the only questionable call late in the game. Hall was clothes lined going for a rebound with no call, and Key was charged with a turnover on a jump ball when a Mizzou defender grabbed his arm as he was driving to the basket in a key possession late in the game. Thankfully, the defense got the stop needed to secure the win.
I must admit I was a little perplexed to see Bola and Donta on the court in an obvious late game free throw situation, but those two worked together to get the huge offensive rebound when Key missed the front end of the 1 and 1.
Dazon nearly had a double-double with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Bola came up huge with 14 boards, including 6 offensive.
We shot 14 of 21 from the free throw line, which isn't great, but it's at least semi-respectable. I know I've discussed this issue extensively here, but after giving it some more thought; I have slightly changed my opinion on how we should address this problem. There have been a lot of comments lately about how we are taking free throws more seriously at practice, etc. If we aren't going to invest in the software arc tracking programs or insist that each player develop and adhere to a strict routine at the line, then we should just accept poor free throw shooting as a part of our identity and not waste time on it. I feel like Coach and the team is giving in a bit to fan pressure by making it a point of emphasis lately. I would like to see Coach come out and say something to the effect of, "we do a lot of things well, but free throw shooting isn't one of them. It is what it is, and we are more than capable of finding other ways to win games." Studies have shown there is actually little correlation between winning percentage and made free throw percentage. Coach Cal essentially took this approach with his Memphis team that made a run to the National Championship game. It might take some pressure off the guys at this point, and that can't hurt.
The television coverage wasn't as bad as some games this year, but it was still lacking. Early in the game with a Hall free throw in the air, the camera cuts away to Coach Anderson while the announcers blather on about his future, with no mention of whether the ball went in or not; we had to wait for the score graphic to update. Also, the constant talk about us being a "bubble team," to generate interest was tiresome. Yes, we have a very outside chance of playing our way into the conversation, but it would probably take winning out at this point. That isn't impossible, but it's not very realistic. More importantly, we need that 4 seed in the SEC tournament, and those hopes took a bit of a set back with Arkansas beating South Carolina on the road. I know fans always perceive a media bias against their own team, but it really felt like the crew was rooting for Mizzou based on their reactions to several plays.
Up next, we return home for a 2:30 pm tipoff Saturday against the LSU Tigers. As bad as LSU is, we can't afford to take a day off. The game in Baton Rouge could have gone either way. SEC Network will handle the TV duties.