Poor rebounding, free throw shooting, and turnovers were too much to overcome as the Tide dropped its third in a row to fall to 17-12 overall, 8-8 in the conference. We are running out of time to get that one more win we need to feel good about selection Sunday.
On the bright side, we finally used a starting lineup that makes sense with Key replacing Dan. Unfortunately, they got off to a slow start and much like the auburn game we were playing from behind most of the day. Dan still played 12 minutes, and had 2 turnovers, a foul, and no points or rebounds. He's basically Carl Engstrom in Lebron James' body right now.
Our zone offense is terrible. I get that we were trying to somewhat control the tempo, but I felt like I was watching an Anthony Grant team at times given the number of shot clock violations, and desperate attempts at the end of the shot clock.
Other than Collin and AJ, nobody is displaying any real sense of urgency on this team right now. For the third straight game, we were dominated on the glass. Arkansas' second, third, and fourth opportunity points in the second half ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.
On a positive note, JP actually shot the ball well, but was still a defensive liability. Braxton played decent with 16 points and 5 rebounds, but continues to make too many bone-headed turnovers. We ended up with 18 turnovers as a team, many of them unforced. We weren't strong with the ball in the post and we continue to make bad passes.
We made 11 of 27 3s against the zone, which is pretty good, but we had no inside game to go along with it. Donta finished with just 4 points and 1 rebound. As I mentioned above, I think Bruce Pearl exposed us a little bit with his zone defense last game. The elbow and short corner seem to be foreign concepts to this team. There is no high post game whatsoever. We either try to spread the floor and rotate the ball to an open shooter (and that's another issue, the ball is sticking, Collin got visibly upset at times with both Key and Ingram for holding the ball too long) or we drive in looking for a foul or dish at the rim. Our spacing was not good, and there was no inside-out game.
After looking like a legit NBA prospect for several games, Donta Hall has gone completely MIA. He ended up with 8 rebounds but only 4 points. What's really frustrating is that he was not running the floor like I know he is capable of. We really needed him to get back on defense and protect the rim against the up-tempo hogs, but he was beat to the basket many times. At one point, CAJ took him out of the game after a poor defensive effort, and of course Dan immediately picked up a foul, and coach looked over at Donta and screamed "GET READY TO PLAY!"
Coach Johnson seemed a little more vocal and animated than normal, and I understand he was "mic'ed up" on ESPN. I suspect a little bit of that was his increased animation for this game was put on for the cameras.
Herb is still playing solid defense, but we need at least some offensive production from him. He really hasn't given us anything on that end since the Oklahoma game.
Despite all the other issues, if we could make a decent percentage of free-throws the outcome may have been different. We were 18 of 27 as a team, and Collin was only 9 of 13.
Our guys tried to rally late after falling behind by 8 with just under 2 minutes to go. Sexton made a couple of free throws to cut the lead to 3 with 44 seconds left. There was a loose ball situation, and it went out-of-bounds off of Alabama with 34 seconds remaining. From my vantage point, it did not appear that we ever had possession, but it was ruled a steal and subsequent turnover by Donta. That was a huge call because it re-set the shot clock and instead of being able to play straight up defense, we had to start fouling.
Nevertheless, they missed a free throw and we had the ball down 3 with 20 seconds or so remaining. We had a timeout, but opted not to use it. In fairness, there were several "free" timeouts due to officials reviews in the final moments, so I suspect Coach had already discussed what to do in that situation. Given that we were shooting the ball fairly well, I would have tried to set something up for JP there, and crash the boards on a miss. Instead, Collin passed up an open 3 at the top of the key just under the 15 second mark to drive in, when he inexplicably passed to Donta, who was fouled on the shot but of course missed both free throws. Nevertheless, Collin had one more chance to tie it at the buzzer with a half-court shot that came up short.
I know we are all frustrated with the team's play right now, but let's let the season play out before we start all the "should we replace Avery" talk. I suspect we aren't as good as we looked when we were routing Tennessee and Florida, and we aren't as bad as we looked against auburn and at times against Arkansas.
The crowd was disappointing. It was listed as a sellout, but there was almost nobody sitting in the corners and lots of empty seats throughout. I would guess probably 11,000 or so, which isn't terrible, but that's a lot of unused seats for a sell out, and other than the student section it wasn't very loud. Also, there were several rows in the student section that were blocked off as "reserved," but maybe half of them were used and only in the second half. I heard those were for the football team, but I'm not sure. In any event, we shouldn't be reserving large blocks of seats for people who aren't going to use them.
Up next, the Florida Gators game to Tuscaloosa Tuesday night after a big win over auburn. It's our last home game of the season (hopefully), and let's not forget we've had some good moments this year. I hope everyone will come out and help our guys get a badly needed win. Tip off is set for 6pm on ESPN.