Sunday, March 01, 2020

Bama Beats Cocks, Alabama 90 South Carolina 86

Next Man Up!  Alabama once again overcame numerous injuries to grind out a tough win at home against a very physical USCe squad.  The win puts the Tide at 16-13 (8-8) overall. Those slim NCAA tournament hopes are still alive.

It was another slow start as Carolina ran out to an early 12-1 lead.  Over five minutes ran off the clock before we made a basket.  Coach Oats argued relentlessly with the officials after Beetle was called for a block on a play where everyone in the gym saw it as a charge.  After several warnings, Oats was nailed with a "T." I think this was another instance of Coach actually wanting the technical foul.  The team looked flat to that point, and his technical certainly seemed to inject some energy both into the team and the fans in the arena.  Bama answered with a 7-0 run to get back into the game, and only trailed by 2 at halftime.

Davis hit a 3 to start the second half (I'm still not crazy about him shooting them), but South Carolina answered with a run to push the lead to 6.  Shack got  us back into the game with a 3, then a defensive stop and a Kira layup cut it to one, and from there the game pretty much went back and forth with neither team able to take over control.  Both teams were attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, and our guys were doing a phenomenal job of holding their own on the glass.  Defensively, we struggled to get stops at times and even mixed in a zone for a couple of possessions.  We led by as many as 8, but when Carolina switched to a press late in the game, we struggled to inbound the basketball.  The Cocks cut the lead to two with just under two minutes when they committed a flagrant foul on Herb.

Herb proceeded to make both shots one handed, then drive down the lane and get a one-handed layup to push the lead back to 6.  We made just enough free throws to hang on from there, including Davis with the final dagger to make it a two possession game in the final seconds.

I'm really proud of the way this team pulls together and picks each other up.  With no John Petty against a bigger, more physical team, and us having a short bench, this looked like a bad matchup.  However, JD proved to be a huge asset with his first double-double.  A lot has been made of our weakness at the 5 spot, but if we can get anywhere near that kind of production from JD this is a totally different team.  People often forget that big men generally develop slower than wings/guards, and it's obvious Davis has improved over the course of the year.  Davis ended up with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Kira was the leading scorer with 25 points, 6 assists, and only two turnovers.  He had a couple of big 3s to get us going, and was excellent driving to the basket and maintaining control.  Shack had an "off" night and still scored 18 points despite having 3 turnovers and only going 3 of 7 from the line.  Coach was in his ear all game.  I've noticed Coach seems to ride Shack a bit harder than the others, for example Beetle makes a lot of the same mistakes, getting out of control, dribbling into traffic, etc, but he doesn't seem to catch as much grief for it as Shack does.

Herb had 10 points, 9 rebounds, and went 4 of 6 from the line while playing his usual lock-down defense.  Of course he won the hard hat again.  The man is an absolute warrior, and it's just amazing what he is doing right now despite playing with a cast. It's not just his physical play either, he's a leader and a coach on the floor.  On one possession, he recognized that USCe was about to switch to a zone, he signaled for Kira to hold up a second, called a different set, and the result was a slash for a layup.

Alex continued to struggle offensively, going only 2 for 7 from the field with a couple of turnovers.  I thought he did a good job with their bigs on the defensive end though, grabbing 10 rebounds.

It's encouraging that we've shown we can win multiple ways, despite our "live and die by the 3" reputation.  We were a respectable 9 of 24 from three point range, but we also attacked the basket and got to the line where we made 33 of 47.  That's about 70%, and while not great, it's respectable.  Carolina was only 17 of 26.  We actually out-rebounded them 44 to 39, and limited the turnovers to 11.

The crowd was actually much better than the last game.  I would estimate around 10,000 were there, and with the exception of the slow start and during the flurry of turnovers late, the fans were loud and into the game.  Signee Keon Ambrose-Hylton was there.

Up next, Vandy comes in for a 7:30 tip-off Tuesday night.  The Dores beat LSU and have been playing much better lately, so we will need another good crowd to cheer our guys on in another "must win" game.  If you can't make it to Coleman, you can catch it on SEC Network.

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