Three-and-a-half days after suffering its biggest loss in 15 seasons, Alabama proved its resiliency and the value of back-to-back intense practices by downing Louisiana-Lafayette 105-93 in a game that felt like a much bigger blowouts.
What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide can play as fast as Coach Avery Johnson wants and use that tempo to beat solid teams. While the Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t elite, they are the Sun Belt favorites and a likely Top 100 RPI team that returns all five starters, including NBA talent-in-waiting Shawn Long. And ULL didn’t play a bad game at all, shooting 45.9 percent and outrebounding Bama 43-32. But the Tide was otherworldly, shooting 54.2 percent and sinking 15 of its 25 3-point attempts while committing just 10 turnovers. Six players scored 10 or more points for the Crimson Tide, including Justin Coleman, Shannon Hale and Riley Norris with 18 apiece. It’s the most points Bama has scored in 11 years and the first time in a decade it cracked 100 points against a Division I team.
What was the best part of the game?: It would be virtually impossible to have a wrong answer, but on a night when so much went right on offense, a freshman who scored one point may have been the best part that is easy to overlook. Donta Hall came in midway through the first half with the task of stopping senior center Long, who already had 11 points, including 10 in the first five minutes. By halftime, Long was stuck on 13 points and the Tide had blown the game wide open. The Cajuns standout filled out his stat sheet (25 points, 3-for-6 3-pointers, 14 rebounds, three blocks) but it was too late, as Alabama maintained a double-digit lead virtually the entire second half.
What were the biggest concerns?: The Tide has been outrebounded in all three games, although it did stay within close range of the Cajuns until midway through the second half. Freshman point guard Dazon Ingram actually led Alabama with seven boards, while Hall added five. Starter Jimmie Taylor inexplicably did not record a rebound. And while no coach will ever sleep totally peacefully after his team gives up 90-plus points, the score was a function of the game flow and Johnson wasn’t about to tap the brakes on his magical offense.
Who was the star?: You could argue for a five-way tie at least, but Coleman came off the bench to deliver his most complete game to date. He was the only one of the top seven scorers to shoot below 50 percent, but went 6-for-6 from the line, had eight assists, three steals, three rebounds and only one turnover. With Ingram and backcourt mate Retin Obasohan both fouling out, Coleman played 27 minutes and kept the Tide rolling on its best offensive night in recent memory.
What’s next?: Alabama opens an eight-team tournament at Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports with an 11 a.m. Central tipoff Thanksgiving against Xavier, which blew out No. 24 Michigan 86-70 on Friday. Plan your turkey intake accordingly.
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