By Chris DePew
Dec. 5, 2015
After back-to-back Top 25 victories, Alabama barely avoided a humiliating loss, finding just enough points to hold off winless Southern Mississippi 58-55 in Hattiesburg.
What did we learn today?: The extent of Avery Johnson’s diplomacy skills. Few fans would have been surprised and fewer would have blamed Johnson if he had put his team on blast following such a narrow escape from the No. 342 team in the RPI. Instead, he remained positive and praised his team’s second-half effort and the way experienced players stepped up late, while acknowledging his young team needed to “detox” from a week’s worth of praise that seemed to lead to swelled heads and soft efforts. Odds are his locker room speech didn’t match the tone of his post-game radio interview. But however he did it, he pushed just enough buttons to hold the Tide back from an unqualified disaster.
What was the best part of the game?: Despite the modest point total, Bama heated up enough to pull out a respectable 42.5 percent shooting average in an unfamiliar gym, including 11-for-29 from 3-point range on a night where the Golden Eagles clogged the lanes and forced everything to the perimeter. The Tide also went 13-for-18 from the foul line – and needed all of it.
Who was the star of the game?: Senior leadership almost seems like a quaint anachronism in modern college basketball, but Bama should be thankful for Retin Obasohan’s four years of seasoning. He produced 20 points, five rebounds and three steals in a game-high 37 minutes. The Tide’s other senior, transfer Arthur Edwards, hit five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. He got a technical foul early for taunting USM’s bench, but Johnson credited him for responding “like a man” after getting chewed out at the half.
What were the biggest concerns?: Rebounding has long since passed the point of concern and become a full-blown crisis. Incredibly, Alabama was credited with just one offensive board and was out-rebounded overall 35-28. Starting center Jimmie Taylor finished scoreless with four rebounds in 14 minutes and it’s not clear if he has a role in Johnson’s offense. Backup Donta Hall was equally invisible, with no points and three rebounds in just six minutes. Only five players scored against a dreadful USM squad that hadn’t been within single digits of a Division I opponent until Friday.
What’s next?: Following time off for final exams and what are likely to be some intense practices, Alabama returns to action Dec. 13 at Clemson on ESPNU.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter at @TideFansChris
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