Alabama came up on the short end of a hard fought game against the 13th ranked team in the nation, falling to 17-12 (8-8).
The seniors were honored before the game, including both Dazon and Dan despite the fact that they each still have a year of eligibility remaining.
The team came out flat, allowing LSU to jump out to a 7-0 lead against our man-to-man defense. We finally got on the board when LSU was called for a flagrant foul. Marlon Taylor should have been ejected for his cheap shot on JP, but it seemed to energize our squad. We switched to a zone, Herb of all people knocked down a couple of 3s, and we fought back from 10 down to take the lead. LSU was stinking it up from 3 point range, and both teams were atrocious at the free throw line. We went into the locker room trailing 29-28.
We continued with the shorter rotations that I like. We had 4 guys playing over 30 minutes including 38 from both JP and Kira, and Riley Norris played 32 minutes off the bench. AJ returned to action, but only played one minute at the end of the first half to prevent Kira from picking up a 3rd foul. Still, I have issues with some of the combinations we are using. Again, we had Dan and Galen on the floor together for about four minutes toward the end of the first half. When Dan shot a 3 (yes, you read that right), I lost it and screamed out "PLEASE take one of the bigs out!" That drew some dirty looks from the staff, but we did in fact bring Riley back in at the next timeout. Also at the end of the first half when we brought in AJ, for some reason we had him off ball with JP trying to run point, and predictably turning it over.
LSU built another 8 point lead early in the 2nd half, but we were able to chip away and stay within shouting distance. CAJ got a technical foul after LSU appeared to get away with a goaltending and then a questionable foul was called on Riley at the other end. The fans were upset, but I think Coach intended to draw that technical, and if so, I agree with him. The team looked frustrated by the calls and he needed to show that he had their back and give them a boost of energy. They responded with a 13-2 run to take a 6 point lead with 10 minutes left. LSU showed why they haven't lost a road game in the SEC. They remained poised, and despite not playing their best game managed to get enough stops and baskets down the stretch to get the win.
There was another key BS goaltending call that went against Donta. It looked like an obvious clean block at the game, and my UAB fan friends were even texting me saying it wasn't even close. Instead of having a fast break opportunity it gave LSU two points, and that was a big 4 point swing.
Another fast break opportunity in the second half epitomized the kind of frustrating, unforced errors that plague this team. We were running after a rebound, with Dazon bringing the ball up the sideline. JP didn't have the awareness to get out of his way, running a step in front of him, and of course Dazon dribbles it off of him out of bounds. There wasn't an LSU defender within 30 feet of them.
Riley had a great game, he finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, but his one turnover was fatal. Trailing by 3 with about a minute remaining, he telegraphed a bad pass to JP, which was intercepted and dunked at the other end to stretch the lead to 5. JP made some desperation 3s, but LSU did a good job of getting the ball to Skylar Mays who put the game away at the free throw line.
Riley's turnover didn't bother me so much as the team's reaction to it. Riley immediately grabbed his head when he let go of the ball, realizing his mistake, but he made no effort to sprint back. JP just looked at Riley. Everyone else just stood there, Herb barely made it across half court. Mistakes happen, but you can't just quit on a play. It's highly unlikely we could have done anything about the dunk, but what if they lose control of the ball, or miss the dunk? We wouldn't have anyone within 50 feet of the basket to get the rebound. After the first couple of minutes I thought our guys played extremely hard for most of the game, but the total lack of defensive effort and just accepting defeat on that play really bothers me.
JP had a great game, leading the way with 23 points. Donta had another double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. I thought he did a great job in a tough matchup. Riley had 13 points and 9 rebounds and played outstanding defense, often with a very bad size mismatch in the post. Herb had his best game in weeks with 11 points and 5 assists.
We had some good performances and played hard, but it just wasn't enough against a very good LSU team.
The crowd was decent but disappointing given the magnitude of the game. The student section was especially disappointing, as it was only a little over half full. I would guess a total of close to 9,000 were in attendance, and the crowd that was there was very supportive and loud throughout. There were quite a few LSU fans there, including many sitting near us, but they were all courteous and fun.
Up next, we'll try to do better against another set of FBI-targeted Tigers, as the state's agricultural school will be visiting Tuscaloosa for an 8 pm tipoff Tuesday night. The game will be televised on ESPNU.