In its first game since losing starting point guard Dazon Ingram to a season-ending injury, Alabama raced out to an 11-point lead, lost it down the stretch and then held on after Shannon Hale’s steal and game-winning dunk to topple Clemson 51-50 in Greenville, S.C.
What did we learn today?: This team doesn’t get rattled at crunch time. Bama has now won four consecutive games – all away from home – by a combined nine points. Things looked bleak when three critical possessions late ended in a Justin Coleman turnover, a Retin Obasohan turnover and a Coleman miss on a deep jumper with little offensive movement. But the Crimson Tide contained the damage on the other end, retook the lead on Hale’s slam with under 30 seconds to play and came up with one more stop to seal the win. After going 13-22 the last two seasons in games decided by single digits, this new-found toughness is the best thing to emerge from the early days of the Avery Johnson era.
What was the best part of the game?: Raise your hand if you understand when and why this team shows up out of nowhere to win the rebounding battle in a given game. Now put it back down, you shameless liar. Clemson had been grabbing 6.4 more rebounds a game than its opponents, while Bama was getting outrebounded by an average of 8.1 per contest and had just lost Ingram, its leading rebounder. But after an eight-day layoff during which crashing the boards was emphasized heavily, especially on offense, the Tide responded by outrebounding the Tigers 44-30. Jimmie Taylor came out of hiding to lead Bama with nine boards and Hale added seven. After a month of the starting frontcourt being MIA on the glass, that’s heartening.
Who was the star?: When you score almost half your team’s points and finish with a career-high 23, you leave no doubt. Not only did Obasohan shoulder the scoring load and go 4-for-7 from 3-point range, he added five rebounds and three assists.
What were the biggest concerns?: With Ingram sidelined thanks to a broken foot suffered in practice this week, Obasohan becomes the default point guard when Coleman is out of the game, a role he also filled down the stretch last season. And just like then, that means a heavy workload for the senior from Belgium and the danger of dead legs late in a game and cumulatively after a few contests. Obasohan logged 38 minutes Sunday night, and that kind of pace could grind him down in SEC play. Bama only scored 17 points after halftime, a sobering reminder of how thin a margin for error this offense has and how desperately it needs secondary scoring. Hale had a dozen points; no other player finished with more than four.
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