Alabama is leaving the Magic Kingdom on a high after finding a magical shooting touch. The Crimson Tide shot a season-high 54.4 percent from the floor and got a game-winning layup from Retin Obasohan with eight seconds left to stun No. 17 Notre Dame 74-73 in the fifth-place game of the AdvoCare Invitational at Walt Disney World.
What did we learn today?: Just keep shooting. In its third game in four days at the HP Field House, Alabama finally coaxed ball into basket with regular success after shooting 38.9 percent and 40.5 percent to split with top 25 opponents Xavier and Wichita State. Obasohan and Shannon Hale each finished with 19 points and neither was shy about jacking up shots. Obasohan went 8-for-19 to snap out of a two-game funk while Hale finished 7-for-14, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range. But unlikely scoring threats also emerged as Avery Johnson used patchwork lineups to navigate through foul trouble. Arthur Edwards made six of his seven field goals and scored all 15 of his points in the first half and Michael Kessens was 4-for-5 to finish with eight points and nine equally-crucial rebounds.
What was the best part of the game?: Bama stayed unrattled when the game could have gotten away from it. The Fighting Irish looked lethargic early and the Tide took advantage, racing out to a 13-point lead less than eight minutes in. Notre Dame snapped to attention and whittled the lead down to as little as one, but Bama still led 43-39 at the break. The Irish took the lead five different times in the second half but could never pull away. After not playing a close game prior to Thanksgiving, the Crimson Tide is 2-for-2 in clutch situations. And after losing the rebounding battle in every game to date, Alabama surprisingly reversed the trend (34-32) against an Irish team that prides itself on winning the boards.
Who was the star?: Either leading scorer would be a fine choice for Sunday, but Hale had the best tournament of anyone in crimson. A big man who can also knock down treys and avoids turnovers (none for the second straight game) is a valued commodity for any team, and opponents are going to have to make covering him a top priority. And while he’s probably never going to be a rebounding machine, Hale is starting to grab his share, including five on Sunday.
What were the biggest concerns?: TWEEEEEET! Everyone on the flight home may be hearing whistles in their sleep. Jimmie Taylor and Dazon Ingram both fouled out and Hale finished with four. While an imbalance in foul calls usually points to one team benefiting from being the aggressor on offense, Bama racked up several calls on charges, moving screens, etc. The Irish outshot the Tide at the foul line (16-for-23 vs. 6-for-10) and were whistled for only 14 fouls, versus 22 for Bama. But the Tide kept its composure, didn’t draw a technical (or even a 15-yarder) for complaining and found a way to win.
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