Friday, March 15, 2019

Staying Alive, Alabama 62 Ole Miss 57

Alabama overcame a 16 point deficit to defeat Ole Miss and keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, for now.

It was a tale of two halves.  We went with a starting lineup of Kira, Herb, Riley, Donta, and Galin.  It didn't work. We scored 8 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.  Thankfully Ole Miss was cold and had their own issues with turnovers so they weren't able to run out to a huge lead.  We closed the half in our traditional sloppy fashion and the Rebels led by 14 going into the break.

After Ole Miss took a 16 point lead early in the second half, a couple of things changed to get us back into the game.  I liked the switch on defense to a 2-3 zone to limit their dribble drive, and we generally did a good job of closing out on their 3-point shooters.  Perhaps even more importantly, Galin Smith got into an altercation with one of the Rebels resulting in a double-technical foul.  The team seemed to play with a lot more intensity and effort following that skirmish.  From that moment we dominated the boards and went on a 15-0 run.  The solid defense combined with the rebounding allowed us to get into transition where Kira was terrific.  It was a close game down the stretch but we actually made the plays we needed, got some key stops, and made just enough free throws. 

We still had some of the same issues that's plagued this team all season.  The 16 turnovers was way too many, and we only made 9 of 18 from the free throw line.  Still, this team deserves a lot of credit for fighting back at a time when almost everyone was ready to write off the season.

T-Mack led the way with 21 points including 4 of 6 from 3 point range.  Kira had 13 points and 4 steals, and as I said he was great in transition and off the dribble.  Galin had 11 points in 29 minutes.  You all know how I feel about playing 2 bigs at the same time, but I thought Galin did an excellent job even if it meant having Donta playing out of position a bit offensively.  Speaking of Donta, though he only scored 7 points he pulled down 15 rebounds.  Riley had 9 rebounds but it felt like a lot more as he tipped several balls to his teammates.  JP only had 2 points in 13 minutes, and I felt like he was not aggressive enough and passed on too many open shots. 

Up next, a battle with Big Blue Nation as we play Kentucky tonight at 6 pm on the SEC Network.  A win likely secures an NCAA bid, but unfortunately that's about as likely to happen as me banging Emily Ratajkowski.  Even with a respectable loss, if things break the right way I think we have a decent shot at playing in Dayton next week.

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