Yes, we've played these guys so much in recent years that even I have grown tired sophomoric "Shocker" jokes and puns. Regardless, in never gets old giving it to Gregg.
The Tide played well for the first 30 minutes, but blew a sizable lead and had to hang on for dear life in the final minute. The energy level was great in the first half. We beat them to a number of rebounds despite them having better position. We had some success with the press, we moved the ball and made open jump shots. We had several possessions with a 12 point lead but were not able to put the game away.
It was an entertaining, up tempo game that generally had good flow. WSU got back into the game by limiting their turnovers and attacking the rim in the second half. There was a stretch when they converted several second chance opportunities in the paint. Though he was a non-factor today, I thought we should have put Donta Hall in to defend the rim during that time. Galin just doesn't have the vertical to be that back-line defender.
That being said, Donta has disappeared now in two of the last three games when he should have had advantageous match-ups. I don't know what's going on with him, but it's concerning.
The re-emergence of T-Mack is encouraging. Even though he only had 5 points, he seems to be playing with confidence and understanding his role on both ends. It was great to see JP make 3 of 6 from downtown away from Coleman. He appears to be taking on a leadership role that this team obviously needs. Kira continues to play way better than any of us could have realistically hoped for at this point. I'm sure he will struggle at some point, but it's exciting to watch him right now. Alex scored 19 after barely playing in the last game. While I still don't always agree with the lineups, the substitution patterns have been much better the last 2 games. He is at least letting guys stay on the court together for long enough to get into a rhythm and develop some chemistry. We only played 9 guys, and had mostly an 8 man rotation with AJ getting 8 minutes at point.
The story of the game was free throw shooting. We made 31 of 33 and that was the difference in the game. Maybe that's a good sign of things to come, but I'm not going to get my hopes up.
Kudos to the Bama fans at the game. I wasn't able to make it to this tournament, but I could hear you guys on TV. I know we were outnumbered, but from all reports those of you who were there represented us well.
Fifth place isn't what we had in mind, and I fear the Northeastern loss will haunt us, primarily because it robbed us of a chance to play Virginia Tech and/or Purdue, but at least we are 4-1 and coming home on a positive note.
Up next, the Murray State Racers come to Tuscaloosa next Monday night for a 7pm tip off. That game will be broadcast on SEC Network + (WatchESPN app). Until then, I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving week.