Thursday, February 20, 2020

Die by the 3- Texas A&M 74 Alabama 68

Alabama lost a crucial home game to the Aggies to drop to 14-12 (6-7).  I considered not even doing a recap for this one.  You can go back and read just about any home February game's recap from the last ten years or so and it's basically the same thing.  Every year, we get some big wins that get us to the bubble, and then have a seemingly manageable schedule, and proceed to crap the bed in home games where we are heavily favored.

Buzz Williams is a good coach and he's going to have a lot of success in this league.  He had an outstanding game plan for us.  They opened up in a half-court 1-2-2 zone trap, and we looked totally unprepared for it.  I haven't had a chance to watch them previously this year, so I don't know if they've ran that a lot, but I'm guessing not because our guys looked like they had never even seen it on film. 

On the other end, it was obvious they wanted to get the ball to Nebo in the post against Alex, and they ran several plays to pull the help side defense away.  Alex was simply out-matched down the low, so we had to play Galin and Davis probably more than we would have liked.  Davis only played 5 minutes and inexplicable decided to jack up a couple of 3s from the corner.

The Aggies scored the first 8 points of the game, and nearly 4 minutes were off the clock before we finally scored.  We settled down and started making some 3s, and the defense was able to come up with 15 turnovers in the first half, and we took a 6 point lead into the locker room.  Even though the pace wasn't to our liking, you had to feel good about the lead and the fact that the game seemed to be developing into a 3 point shooting contest.  We were doing a decent job in the soft man and going under screens of keeping the ball out of the post, but unfortunately the 351st ranked shooting team went off for 11 of 24. 

They would cut the lead to one or two, but we would answer and stretch it back to 5 or 6, usually on a Shack 3.  I felt like if we could ever get it to 10 we would be in good shape, as their style of play isn't conducive to coming from behind.  At the same time, I knew if we ever coughed up the lead, we would probably be in big trouble. We had several opportunities with the ball and a 6 point lead, but turned it over or took a bad shot almost every time.  We had a 6 point lead with a little over 4 minutes remaining, then gave up a 12-0 run.  I'll note we had 3 timeouts remaining, and did not use one until we were down 6 with a minute remaining.  We should have used one when they cut it to one, or at the latest when they first took the lead with 2:30 remaining.  I like Coach Oats' philosophy in general, but his timeout management makes about as much sense as Avery Johnson's substitution patterns.

Simply put, this team choked down the stretch with the game on the line, again.  Kira, Alex, and JP all had bad turnovers down the stretch.  Yes, both teams had 19 turnovers, but the Ags only had 4 in the second half.  They took care of the ball down the stretch, and we didn't.  Shack had a great game with 24 points and only one turnover, but he missed some wide open 3s late that could have tied or given us the lead.  Then, the Aggies inexplicably fouled him on a 3 point shot when they had a 4 point lead with only 3 seconds remaining, giving us a glimmer of hope that he could made the first 2 and give us a shot at a put-back for the tie.  Instead, he proceeds to brick all three of them.  We were a pathetic 4 of 9 from the line.

A lot has been made about the free throw attempts disparity, but when one team has a post presence and the other is jacking 3s, that is the result.  I thought the officials did a pretty good job, most of the charges were good calls.  Whenever we tried to drive, it usually resulted in a charge or a turnover.  I know the mid-range game isn't really a thing anymore, but I would have liked to have seen Kira with a few more short to mid-range pull ups.  I'm not saying shoot 15 of them or anything, but just 5 or 6 to pull their bigs out in the zone a little bit would have helped.

There was one bad call that sticks out in my mind, I think it was Petty who got bumped on the sideline and lost the ball out of bounds and there was no foul called.  Coach Oats was very lucky he didn't get called for a technical, but I commend the officials for refraining from calling one in that situation.

I know I've said this before, but this loss pretty much ends our at-large tournament bid hopes.  Sure, we could go on a run and win 5 of 6 and be back in the conversation, but it's hard to see that happening.  In fact, I would rest Herb and try to get him back to 100% for the SEC tournament.  With a healthy and rested Herb, we would have at least a puncher's chance against anybody in Nashville with the possible exception of Kentucky, who we'll inevitably draw in the second round as always.

The crowd was very disappointing.  It's like my friend behind me said, "you would think we lost our last game by 40 looking at the crowd."  I know a 6 p.m. Wednesday night start is difficult for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.  It's impossible to get there from Birmingham leaving at 5, lots of people in Tuscaloosa go to church, students have classes, etc, but it has to be disappointing for a team to work so hard to beat LSU and auburn and then come out to a half-full at best crowd.  I would estimate about 7,000 people were there.

Up next, we travel to Oxford, MS to take on the Ole Miss Rebels at 7:30 on the SEC Network.  Personally, I'm looking forward more to the Wilder fight after.  Roll Deontay Roll.

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