It was a sad Fat Tuesday for our Cajun friends, as Bama dominated the second half to cruise to an easy victory. With the win, Alabama is now 17-9 on the season, and 8-5 in the conference, still very much alive for a coveted top 4 finish. We probably need at least one more win to feel really good about our chances on selection Sunday.
We jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but once again we put a nonsensical lineup on the floor that allowed LSU to get back into the game. We made some plays late in the half to take a 39-30 lead into the locker room.
The second half started horrifically. We had several bad turnovers, and LSU capitalize by making a couple of 3s and the lead was cut to 1. With Collin Sexton going to the bench with his 4th foul, it looked like another midweek letdown was imminent. Instead, we responded with a 23-3 run, and eventually led by as many as 25, before playing a couple of walk-ons the last couple of minutes which allowed LSU to make the final score somewhat respectable.
Before some knucklehead cites this run and the auburn game as evidence that "we play better without Sexton," just stop it. There is plenty of evidence of the offense struggling without Collin in the game, including the stretch in the first half of this game. Despite the four fouls, he still ended up with 15 points and 6 assists in only 22 minutes of play. This is not a one man team, though, and these types of performances with him on the bench should give the team confidence they can go without him when necessary, and will also give Collin confidence that he has more than sufficient help from his teammates.
Donta Hall was the clear MVP with a career high 20 points to go with 8 rebounds. He had 5 dunks, including a couple of impressive "and ones" and was instrumental in putting the game during our big second half run. "Basketball IQ" is a term that gets thrown around more so in regards to guard play, but Donta has as high of a basketball IQ as anyone. Everybody notices the dunks, rebounds, and blocked shots, but watching him move and anticipate without the ball is a real joy. He sets up those dunks by getting into great position, and reading the defenders rebounding angles and help-side defense when our guards drive the lane. His ability to run the floor, catch the ball, finish at the rim, and know precisely when to cut to the basket have improved ten-fold over the course of the last two season. Coach Pelphrey has earned his salary for his work with Donta alone.
I am still a little worried about Donta's wrist injury. The trainers were working on his wrap during every timeout, and seemed to be favoring it at times. Also, Braxton Key was interviewed on the post game radio broadcast despite Donta being named player of the game, and I wonder if that was related to his wrist injury.
Speaking of Key, he had another solid performance with 12 points and 7 rebounds while playing great defense. He needs to be starting of Giddens. Dan filled the stat sheet with "4s," his total for rebounds, points, and of course, fouls. He only managed to stay on the court for 13 minutes.
Petty had 11 points on 3 of 3 shooting from downtown, and he finally seems to be contributing in other ways as his defense has also improved lately.
Speaking of defense, Herb Jones played a huge role in holding Waters to only 5 points. I looked up at the scoreboard late in the game and commented to my friend that Herb has played one of the best games I've seen to that point without scoring a single point. He did get on the board, with a great move, drive, and dunk. He was also efficient at running the point while Sexton was on the bench in foul trouble.
The crowd was much better than the Missouri game, but still not ideal, I would estimate maybe 8,000 or so. The atmosphere was much better though. Dazon set the tone early by making a 3 on our first possession, and the crowd was loud and engaged for the rest of the night.
Up next, we travel to Lexington Kentucky to take on the Wildcats at Rupp Arena. Long time readers of the blog already know that this is my favorite road trip in the SEC, and I'm planning to make the drive up Friday afternoon. In most of my recent trips there; I've just been hopeful we could keep it respectable, but this time I think I have a legitimate shot at witnessing my third Bama victory in that building. Tip off will be at 2pm Eastern (1 Central) on CBS.