On a night Alabama needed everything to go right, few things did as No. 9 Kentucky pulled away in the second half for a 77-61 win at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: Talent matters, and the Crimson Tide doesn’t have enough of it this year. Retin Obasohan has developed into a bedrock combo guard, but he’s having to carry more than his fair share of the scoring load, plus divvying up responsibilities at the point. Shannon Hale has shown little spark in his three games back from a “medical condition” and it’s fair to wonder if his struggles are more mental than physical at this point. Jimmie Taylor should be scoring more down low but still doesn’t look comfortable using his 6-foot-10 body as a junior and is a liability on defense against better forwards and centers. Justin Coleman, who like Hale and Taylor came to Tuscaloosa as a four-star recruit, is too inconsistent a shooter and still gets bullied by bigger guards. Otherwise Bama has a couple of raw freshmen and role players who occasionally bubble up to do something nice but who wouldn’t be seeing regular minutes on a Top 25 team. Put it together and you have the SEC’s lowest scoring team, which is also last in assists and rebounds.
What were the biggest concerns?: Kentucky’s starting front court went from MIA in Baton Rouge to MVPs in T-Town. Alex Poythress punctuated the Cats’ turnaround from a miserable loss to LSU, where he scored four points and fouled out. The junior forward scored a game-high 25 points on 8-for-10 shooting and also had seven rebounds. Marcus Lee, who was scoreless and also fouled out at LSU, added eight points and 11 rebounds, as UK rolled up a 43-25 advantage on the boards. Taylor had six rebounds and four blocks for Bama, but only scored four points and never seemed to come up with a key stop or rebound when the Tide needed it most. His game is only marginally better than freshman Donta Hall’s, and one can’t help but wonder if his starting job could be in danger soon. Of course it is hard for anyone to look good if they can’t get the ball, and Coleman and Obasohan spent most of each possession fending off hard pressure from UK guards Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe. Too many possessions ended with a player trying to create his own shot without passing, then flinging up a prayer to beat the shot clock. Alabama finished with a gruesome five assists.
What was the best part of the game?: Whenever a glaring problem emerges in a game, it tends to get fixed for the next one. Despite having just one day off, Coach Avery Johnson was able to get through his message about caring for the basketball, as the Tide went from 19 turnovers at Ole Miss to just seven versus the Cats. The team is clearly playing hard and responding to coaching, and it will be critical to keep morale up for a team that could be an underdog in every remaining game this month.
Who was the star?: Obasohan didn’t so much drive to the rim as conduct cavalry charges that somehow kept ending in layups. Despite tailing off at the end, quite possibly because he had to log 36 minutes, he ended up with 21 points, including a 3-for-4 showing from 3-point range for good measure.
Who’s next?: The SEC death march continues Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum against unbeaten No. 22 South Carolina. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. Central on the SEC Network.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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