Welcome to Coleman Coliseum, where ranked opponents come to die! Alabama held on for their 7th straight home win over teams ranked in the top 25 to improve to 13-7 overall, 4-3 in conference play.
This game was not a thing of beauty. With TV Ted Valentine up to his usual tricks of bringing attention to himself and calling out of his zone, it dragged on for well over 2 hrs and featured 44 fouls and 58 free throws.
Donta Hall was up to the challenge of facing their skilled big men and played a big part in building a lead in the first half. He made the most of his time on the court by scoring 19 points, but he was limited to only 23 minutes due to foul trouble. We built a 12 point halftime lead that we would push to 15 early in the second half, but once again we failed to put it away.
With Donta and Herb both on the bench in foul trouble, we struggled to get stops defensively. The Bulldogs were able to get to the rim at will and went on a 9-0 run to climb back into the game. Coach Johnson countered with a smaller lineup and found a mis-match with JP in the post that he was able to exploit and extend the lead back to 11 with just 4 minutes remaining. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over 3 possessions in a row and allowed the Bulldogs to get back within 3. Kira Lewis saved the day with a great close out to block what appeared to be a wide open 3 from the corner that would have tied the game with 30 seconds remaining. Donta and Herb made just enough free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Good teams find a way to win when they don't play their best game. We barely shot 60% from the free throw line, made ONE out of 15 from 3-point range, and turned it over 11 times (seemingly all in the first 3 and final 3 minutes of the game), but still got the win over a top 25 team. That is encouraging, of course it also helps that $tate was even worse from the free throw line and shot 3 of 19 from downtown themselves.
Donta had 7 rebounds to go with his 19 points, and JP and Riley were also in double figures with 13 and 11 points respectively. I thought T-Mack played well with 8 rebounds and 6 points and helped pick up some of the slack on the boards with Donta on the bench. I would have liked to see him playing more with JP and Riley. Galin Smith was serviceable for 11 minutes, picking up 7 points despite being a bit of a liability defensively.
With most of the state being unnecessarily shut down yesterday the crowd was great. I would estimate close to 10,000, with only a handful of obnoxious $tate fans sprinkled in. The student section was packed, and though the crowd wasn't as energetic as the Ole Miss game, it did get loud during the key moments late in the game. The poor flow of the game and the endless trips to the free throw line took a lot of the energy out of the building.
Up next, we travel across the state to the ugliest village on plains to take on Bruce Pearl's War-Tiger-Eagle-Plainsmen. That previously top ten ranked team has fallen on hard times lately, but I'll be shocked if they don't make about 20 3s against us and run us out of their band-box gym. Tip-off is set for 7pm CST Saturday on ESPN2.