Bama 58, USM 55: Tide lucky to escape after rock fight on the road

Dec 4, 2015; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Arthur Edwards (4) shoots the ball against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the second half at Reed Green Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2015; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Crimson guard Arthur Edwards (4) shoots the ball against the Golden Eagles in the second half at Reed Green Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

By Chris DePew
Dec. 5,

After back-to-back victories, barely avoided a humiliating loss, finding just enough points to hold off winless 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 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 back from an unqualified disaster.

What was the best part of the game?: Despite the modest point total, 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 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 basketball, but 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, was credited with just one offensive board and was out-rebounded overall 35-28. Starting center finished scoreless with four rebounds in 14 minutes and it’s not clear if he has a role in Johnson’s offense. Backup was equally invisible, with no points and three rebounds in just six minutes. Only five scored against a dreadful 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, returns to action Dec. 13 at Clemson on ESPNU.

Follow Chris DePew on at @TideFansChris

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