By Chris DePew
Jan. 26, 2016
On a night when a miserable start and a malfunctioning offense threatened to send not only the game out of reach but possibly Alabama’s season spiraling out of control, the Crimson Tide clawed its way back for a wild 15-point comeback, downing Tennessee 63-57 at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: Unearned victory can feel just as sweet. That’s not entirely fair to Bama, but on a night when the Crimson Tide was fortunate to reach 40 percent field goal shooting (24-for-60) and regressed horribly against zone defense (16 turnovers), the sudden rally in a previously lifeless building was jaw dropping. What kept the Tide alive even during the worst moments was rock-ribbed defense that held the Volunteers more than 20 points below their season average and a reversal of fortune at the foul line, where Bama was 11-for-13.
What was the best part of the game?: An unexpected second run in the second half. UT’s shooting was much more miss than hit even as the Vols pulled out to a 48-33 lead with 13:45 to go, so it felt like there was an opening for one Alabama run. Sure enough the Tide outscored Tennessee 14-0 over the next six-plus minutes but couldn’t quite get over the hump. The Vols countered with their own 7-0 run and it felt like the Tide had missed its comeback chance. Instead Bama scored 16 of the last 18 points as Retin Obasohan finished with a game-high 22 points and Riley Norris grabbed 13 rebounds.
Who was the star?: Johnson City native Shannon Hale had his best game of the season against his home-state school, using his height advantage to drive for layups and dunks. Like everyone else wearing white and crimson he started slowly, but worked his way through the misses to end up with 20 points and eight rebounds, including a clutch 9-for-10 showing at the foul line. He also contributed two of Bama’s nine steals.
What were the biggest concerns?: Jimmie Taylor dropped off the map again and may have lost his starting job tonight. The 6-foot-10 junior towered over all of the Vols but could do nothing with his size mismatch, finishing with one point and one rebound. Despite not fouling anyone, his ineffectiveness limited him to 11 minutes. Freshman Donta Hall (four points, six rebounds, three blocks) played for long stretches during the second-half rally, and when he fouled out Coach Avery Johnson left Taylor benched in favor of Michael Kessens. Justin Coleman wasn’t much more effective in his 11 minutes, going scoreless with three turnovers and only one assist. Alabama shot a putrid 4-for-21 from 3-point range, but sure enough it was an Arthur Edwards trey with 38 seconds left that gave the Tide the lead for good.
What’s next?: While most of the league is wrapped up in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, Alabama travels to South Carolina to try for an improbable season sweep of the Gamecocks. Tipoff is 5 p.m. Central on the SEC Network.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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