Mizzou set a conference record by making 31 of 31 from the free throw line, but Alabama gutted out a hard fought game to improve to 10-7 (3-2).
It started ugly with neither team able to take control until Alex got hot and made a few threes to build a 10 point lead. That set the tone for the game, and while Mizzou clawed back to within a possession a few times thanks to their endless parade of free throws, our guys always had the answer.
We started Kira, Shack, JP, Herb, and Alex. All five of the starters ended up in double figures. While Mizzou's free throw record was quite an accomplishment, we also made 25 of 30 from the stripe and that was a big part of our ability to hang on to the lead in the final minutes. I thought the officials generally called the game too tight on both sides. The game did not have much of a flow, and I'll say it again, this is another example of why the NCAA should go to the quarters format. I think we can all agree nobody wants to watch 61 free throws in a game.
Unlike the last two games, we were able to get much more 3s up. We shot an adequate 13 of 39. Alex was particularly hot in the first half, going 4 of 8. JP went 4 of 10 and Shack was 3 of 9. Beetle suffered a back injury and fouled out in only 8 minutes of action. I thought he was playing well, especially battling through the injury, and two of his foul calls were total BS. Speaking of BS, Doug Shows called a technical foul on our bench, and I've heard a couple of different accounts as to what happened. Nate Oats was arguing with another official during a timeout over a questionable call, and some reports say Oats was warned not to "charge" an official, and Shows called him for walking toward the official. Other reports say it was on Hodgson. Oats was animated and on the court, but the technical should have came from the official he was having the conversation with, if at all.
Herb and Kira both did an excellent job of playing smart with 4 fouls down the stretch. Losing Kira with 4 minutes or so to play would have been catastrophic with Beetle also out. Herb won the hard hat again and had another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Herb was also 7 of 8 from the line. Kira had 10 points and 7 assists. JP led the way with 20 points, and Shack and Alex each had 17.
Notice I haven't said much about defense or turnovers. Other than the fouls, we played pretty solid defense and only had 14 turnovers. The improvement in these areas over the last couple of months is the biggest reason why we have a winning record and are still discussing our post-season chances right now.
The crowd was decent for a cool, rainy afternoon, I would say probably around 9,500 or so. It wasn't the loud, emotional atmosphere we had for the auburn game, but the crowd was engaged and supportive when needed.
Up next, we travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores Wednesday night. For the first time in the history of their program they failed to make a three-pointer against Tennessee Saturday, so we should probably be prepared for them to go 20 of 24 or so against us. It will tip off at 8 pm on the SEC Network.