Sunday, January 13, 2019

Agonizing loss to Aggies, Texas A&M 81 Alabama 80

Alabama falls to 10-5 on the season and 1-2 in league play after blowing another sizable home lead to one of the worst teams in the conference. 

The starting lineup played well.  We generally took care of the basketball in this game, we only had 8 turnovers and that's been an issue in some recent losses.  Unfortunately, our defense was only able to force 3 turnovers. 

We jumped out to an early lead and had a 43-32 edge at halftime thanks to some nice ball movement and great outside shooting.  Unfortunately, we also accumulated a lot of fouls and that would prove to be an issue later on. 

Texas A&M made an adjustment at halftime to focus on pounding the ball into the post, and we had no answer.  The hot shooting cooled off, and the Aggies methodically chipped away at the lead.  Herbert picked up his 4th foul early in the second half and was limited to just 11 minutes of playing time in the game.  This really limited our ability to keep them out of the paint on defense. 

The Aggies took their first lead with around 7 minutes left and it was back and forth the rest of the way.  We missed too many free throws down the stretch, and frankly, made too many boneheaded coaching decisions to close the game out. 

With a one point lead and the ball with just over 30 seconds remaining, we used our last timeout.  I get the idea of wanting to set your defense and get the best free throw shooters in the game, but, it also allows aTm to set up a couple of last second plays, and more importantly, as I told the people sitting around me at the time, "now we have to in-bound the ball without a timeout."  Sure enough, Dazon held it and got a 5 second call.  You absolutely cannot take a 5 second call in that situation.  If nothing else, lob it in the direction of the basket and hope Donta can go up and get it, it's a 50/50 ball at worst.  I can't fathom that was not discussed during the timeout.

As irritating as that was, it's not what ultimately cost us the game.  We got one of our three turnovers on the ensuing possession.  The bigger issue, to me, is the lack of adjustments on defense in the second half.  Against one of the most turnover prone teams in the country, we didn't run a single full-court press.  Against LSU, we got back into the game running an effective 2-3 zone defense.  Saturday, we stubbornly stayed in a man to man defense against a team that was killing us in the paint while shooting about 15 % from behind the arc.  If we switch to a zone when Herb picks up his 4th foul, I think we win the game by double-digits, but we'll never know.

JP was our leading scorer with 22 points.  I don't think we did enough to get him shots down the stretch.  Donta had a nice offensive game with 14 points and 16 rebounds, but he was getting pushed around on defense.  We put Dan in for 6 minutes in the second half, but he did not fair much better.  I wonder if Galin would have been a better option?  We would give up some height, but he's a bigger body to push around. Kira and T-Mack were also in double digits with 14 and 10 each. 

The crowd was great and the student section was packed.  There was close 13,000 in attendance and there were very few Aggie fans.  It was loud throughout most of the game.  I thought the effort from the players was good.  The guys played hard, the fans did their part, but the coaching staff failed miserably.

Up next, we travel to Mizzou for an 8pm tipoff Wednesday night.  The game will be televised on the SEC Network. 

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