Undefeated South Carolina a big obstacle to Tide turnaround

Where to watch: No. 19 (15-0, 2-0 SEC) at Alabama (9-5, 0-2) – Today 8 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, SEC Network

Who to watch: . He’s hardly the only one to blame for Bama’s scoring slump, but facts are facts. In the first seven games of the year, with freshman starting at point guard, Alabama averaged 67.3 points per contest while going 5-2 and cracking the 70-point barrier three times. After Ingram was lost for the season due to a broken foot, the Crimson Tide has slumped to a 4-3 mark (and needed an overtime win against Jacksonville State to avoid going below .500 in that stretch). Bama’s scoring average over that time is 64.7 points per game, and it has been held under 70 points in each of its last five outings. Coleman, who regained the starting job once Ingram was out, scores 8.3 points per game, but that average is skewed by a 24-point outburst against Oregon. In four games since, he has 22 points combined and has as many turnovers as assists (13).

What to watch for: Can Alabama defend without fouling? Gamecocks coach Frank Martin should send a gift basket to the NCAA committee that directed officials to call tighter games this season. USC scores a fraction over 80 points per game, and the bedrock of its offensive foundation is its ability to get to the free throw line, punctuated by an early January win against Memphis when the Cocks attempted a record 63 free throws (making 46). While the total was a fluke, the trend wasn’t. South Carolina attempted 28 and 29 free throws to open SEC play with wins over Auburn and Vanderbilt. Tellingly, the Gamecocks got a scare from Vandy when they had a rare shooting slump at the line, only hitting 18 times (62.1 percent). The Tide is better off limiting South Carolina’s trips to the line than hoping for another off night.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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