Alabama got its first 2 game winning streak of the season by beating the team that beat Duke to get back to a .500 record at 4-4. Beetle was not able to play due to his wrist injury, so we were left with an 8 man rotation. As MSmilie pointed out in his preview, SFA runs an unconventional system. They play fast and physical, forcing a lot of turnovers while fouling a lot and getting most of their shots from down low. I thought Coach Oats did a fantastic job of managing this game and making the proper adjustments. He slowed it down just enough and we proved we could score and defend in the half-court when need be. This was, by far, our best defensive effort of the season.
We got off to a slow start with SFA building an early 11-5 lead. The first few minutes looked as anticipated, a fast sloppy game from both teams. After making a couple of 3s to draw even, the game went back and forth through the rest of the first half, with the Tide taking a one point lead into the the locker room. JP started off hot from 3 point range to start the second half, which led us to a 10 point lead that we more or less maintained the rest of the way.
It was a great team effort as everyone contributed. Kira played the whole game and ended up with 15 points. He was also Alabama's leading rebound-er with 6. Alex played 29 minutes with his bad hip and foot and also scored 15, including going 4 of 8 from three point range, despite not practicing since the Bahamas tournament. JP had 14 points shooting 4 of 10 from 3 point range. Davis added 11 points in the post while Shack led the scoring with 17 points. Herb's stat line was not pretty, 2 points and 5 turnovers while fouling out in 16 minutes, but he contributed with his great defense. He was largely responsible for limiting their best player, Kevon Harris, to only 3 of 16 shooting from the field. For all of the talk about Herb's jump shot, if he could just improve on finishing around the rim that would improve his offensive game tremendously.
We still had way too many turnovers with 20, and were out-rebounded 38-33, but I felt like we did a much better job of boxing out and getting rebounds in the second half. At this point, it's hard to judge the quality of this win. Despite the upset win at Duke, KenPom still had SFA ranked in the 200's, but their RPI was in the top 35. It will be interesting to see their NET ranking when that comes out, but regardless, it's good to have this one in the win column.
The crowd was decent with a solid student turnout on a Friday night, and for the first time this season there wasn't a significant number of empty seats around us. I would estimate close to 7,000 were there, and the fans were generally supportive and appreciative of the grit and effort displayed on the court.
Up next, it's finals week, followed by a road trip to State College, PA to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions Saturday afternoon. Tip off is set for 1pm CST on the Big Ten Network.