Alabama looked flat and unprepared in an ugly loss to Mizzou, falling to 5-4 and 5th place in the SEC. Give the Tigers credit, they beat us in nearly every facet of the game.
Cuonzo Martin had a great game plan for us. They controlled the tempo and made it an ugly, half court game. They played physical defense, and while we were able to get them in foul trouble, we couldn't capitalize at the free throw line. Offensively they took advantage of our hap-hazard switching patterns and patiently waited to get a mis-match. They used their stretch bigs to get our rim defenders out on the perimeter. They even ran the old 3-man weave, with some success, toward the end of the game.
Our bigs had a terrible night. Dan was in foul trouble and managed to play 14 minutes without grabbing a single rebound. Galin Smith has stepped up at times this season, but he looked completely lost in his 10 minutes of play. He couldn't stop the more athletic bigs for Mizzou, and offensively he brought their defenders into the lane multiple times when Collin or Dazon were driving. Donta had 9 points and 4 rebounds, but was a non-factor defensively, chasing guys out to the perimeter and he didn't record a single block.
Sexton played well, he ended up with 23 points but just couldn't make the shots we needed from him down the stretch. Mizzou built a 12 point lead in the first half, but we chipped away and Collin made a 3 at the buzzer to cut it to within 2. To play so poorly in the first half, shoot around 50% from the free throw line, and still only be down 2; I thought surely we would play better in the second half and take control of the game. Unfortunately, it was Missouri who would dictate the flow of the game in the second half. We managed to tie it a couple of times, but the Tigers always answered with at least a 5-0 run.
We were dominated on the glass, 37-27. They had a 6'2" guard pull down 9 rebounds. They out hustled us to every loose ball.
The only thing we did well as a team was get to the free throw line. Unfortunately, we only made 21 of 32. We had a strength advantage in the post, but as I mentioned above none of the bigs had a good night. I felt like our guys got frustrated with their missed free throws and started taking ill advised threes late in the game. The dribble drive was the only thing that was remotely effective on offense. Other than Sexton, Dazon had a decent game with 10 points. Everyone else sucked. JP was jacking up off-balanced 3s. Herb had one of his worst games of the year. He was decent defensively, but not on the level he's been in recent games, and his offensive game was atrocious. I can chalk this one up to being a true freshman from a small town coming off a game where everyone is talking about how many NBA scouts are watching you. Braxton Key played 23 minutes and took one shot from the field. He passed up some open looks, and that was really disappointing given his recent improvements.
This team has been an inconsistent roller coaster, and I have little doubt we will have more ups and downs to come. We look great at times and awful at times. I think what is most frustrating about this loss is that there was real reason to hope we had turned the corner against OU. If you look at our other terrible games, you can come up with reasons or explanations for each. UCF/Mercer/Texas- young team, early in season, injuries, and trying to figure out the rotation. Georgia? Ingram out, young team on the road, still figuring out the rotation. Ole Miss and Vandy? You could put the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls in Alabama uniforms and they would probably lose in those gyms.
Going into this game, we finally seemed to have everyone healthy, settled on a rotation, and were playing at home. Sure, I was afraid of a let down after the win Saturday, but Collin's words in the post-game press conference gave me confidence his leadership could keep the team focused and motivated for the next game. I listened to Coach Avery speak at the Birmingham Tip-off Club Monday, and he talked about the team taking inspiration from the trip to the Naval Academy earlier in the year, and handling success by continuing to be resilient, embrace adversity, and give 100% everyday/every play to move from that "good" to "elite" level. Either he is full of feces, unable to effectively communicate his message to his players, or they aren't buying in, because I saw absolutely no evidence of any of those things on the court last night.
The crowd was almost as pathetic as the play on the court. I would guess there were no more than 7,000 or so there. I know this will probably ruffle some feathers, but our fanbase deserves it's fair share of blame for this loss. This team seems to feed off of big, loud crowds and positive energy. Perhaps, a packed, supportive house would have been able to motivate the guys to overcome the OU hangover. I don't get it, we've had some big crowds for lesser games coming off worse performances at less convenient times. With our last 3 home games being wins over rivals and/or top 15 ranked teams, we can't even fill half of the place at 8 pm on a Wednesday night? That's inexcusable.
Up next, we travel to Florida to take on the Gators in Gainesville. Tip-off is set for 3pm Central time Saturday, and it will be televised on ESPN.