UA 64, WSU 60: Defense helps Tide shock the Shockers

Nov 27, 2015; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson talks with forward Shannon Hale (11) against the Wichita State Shockers during the second half at HP Field House. Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Wichita State Shockers 64-60. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2015; Kissimmee, FL, USA; head coach talks with forward (11) against the during the second half at HP Field House. Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Shockers 64-60. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew Staff
Nov. 27, 2015

A day after a discouraging loss to No. 23 Xavier, Alabama bounced back by limiting No. 20 Wichita State 31.1 percent shooting from the field and held on for a 64-60 win in a consolation game at the AdvoCare Invitational at Walt Disney World’s HP Field House.

What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide can generate its own energy and motivation. Playing in a losers’ bracket game in front of a handful of fans doesn’t make for a great atmosphere, and after Bama fell behind in the first half on cold shooting, it would have been easy to hang heads and expect another blowout. Instead the Tide ended the half on a 15-4 run to take a narrow lead, began coaxing just enough balls into the basket and most importantly got to the line and converted free throws. Alabama went 25-for-33 at the stripe, outclassing the Shockers (12-for-18) in makes and attempts; a classic sign of the more aggressive team. Wichita State was playing without All-America candidate , but this win was no fluke. Shockers star Ron Baker had 15 points but needed 12 shots to do it.

What was the best part of the game?: After two blowout wins and two blowout losses, this was the first chance to see how the Tide would handle late-game pressure. A five-point Bama lead melted down to one in the closing minutes, but Avery Johnson’s charges kept their cool, locked down on defense and salted the game away at the foul line. After losing by a point in Wichita last December and by five points to the Shockers at home the season before that, it was an extraordinarily satisfying turnaround and something Alabama can hopefully draw on in SEC play.

Who was the star?: Justin Hale turned in a complete scoring performance after fading in the second half against Xavier. Friday he had 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. , who nearly switched his commitment to Wichita State during last spring’s coaching transition, again lead Alabama on the glass from the point (eight rebounds) and kept drawing trips to the foul line, finishing with 11 points.

What were the biggest concerns?: would probably dispute Disney’s claim to being the Happiest Place on Earth. He only made one of his 10 shots from the field and is only hitting 22.2 percent for the tournament. Also he managed just one assist and turned the ball over twice. While Alabama losing the rebound battle (41-30) is expected by now, Wichita State’s 19 offensive rebounds could have easily sunk Bama if the Shockers hadn’t shot the ball so poorly, particularly at the start of the game.

What’s next?: After a day off, Alabama gets its third crack at a ranked team this weekend, playing No. 17 Notre Dame for fifth place in a 6 p.m. Central tip on ESPNU.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter at @TideFansChris

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