For the first time in school history, the Crimson Tide put 90 on the board for five consecutive games to earn Nate Oats' first SEC win against the rival Bulldogs from cow college west. Alabama improved to 8-6, 1-1 in SEC play.
The game started out sluggish with $tate building a 5-2 lead over the first four minutes or so of play. I felt like we were getting decent shots, but they just weren't falling early. We went big for a couple of minutes with both Davis and Galin in the game, and the different look seemed to disrupt the Dogs' post play. Meanwhile Shack made a 3 to tie the game, and Beetle provided a spark off the bench that led to a nice run to build an 8 point lead. It's a great sign that the guys didn't lose confidence when the shots weren't falling early. They had a couple of dry spells which allowed $tate to get back in the game, but they never lost control. The Bulldogs briefly regained the lead late in the first half, but we closed the half strong to take a 42-34 lead into the locker room.
JP took over in the second half, creating his own shot and knocking down several step-back 3s. $tate cut the lead to 6 at one point, but we immediately answered with a run to go up by 18 and the game was never again in doubt.
Our bigs must have read MSmilie's preview and were motivated by the notion that Reginald Perry gave the Dogs a huge mis-match advantage in the post, because our guys more than held their own with him. Galin Smith scored 11 points, showed a nice hook shot, and even converted an alley-oop. It was the second lob attempt to him in the game and the fourth or fifth of the season...he does a lot of things well and had a great game, but Galin isn't exactly known for his hands or his vertical, so I would be okay if we scrapped that from the playbook, as exciting as it was.
The stat line does not reflect how well Alex Reese played. He had 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks, but for a guy who has struggled defensively he did an outstanding job guarding Perry. He also made a slick move to draw Perry's fifth foul, essentially ending any hope the Bulldogs were clinging to for a comeback. We held Perry to 14 points, points in the paint were essentially even at 36-34, and we out-rebounded the best rebounding team in the conference 42-38.
The only real negative I saw from this game was our guard's inability to stay in front of Nick Weatherspoon. He killed us on the dribble-drive and ended up with 20 points.
The most encouraging part of this game is that we excelled in areas that have been concerns or weaknesses. The defense was much better, as already mentioned the post play far exceeded expectations, and we only had 10 turnovers.
JP was our leading scorer with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Kira ended up with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Beetle and Shack scored 11 and 10, respectively.
There was a solid of crowd of about 7,000 or so, and thankfully only a small handful of Mississippi State fans. They normally bring a lot of obnoxious fans, but I guess the 6pm start on a week night deterred most of them. We also noticed they have added hand rails to the lowest 3 steps of the stairs behind the basket. These steps are steeper than the others, and I wonder if somebody fell or raised an ADA claim.
Up next, we travel to Lexington, KY to take on the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday. Tip off is set for noon eastern, 11 a.m. central on ESPN.