Alabama spread the scoring wealth Saturday, as five players scored 11 or more points in an 80-71 thumping of Missouri at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today: This conference season has been a struggle, but Bama is far from the bottom of the SEC. The Tigers are a paltry 1-9 in league play, losers of eight in a row and a near lock for last place. But Mizzou isn’t the only team in a deep funk. Auburn was in a tailspin even prior to suspending do-everything point guard Kareem Canty on Saturday. Mississippi State has young, raw talent but too little depth and has never managed to catch fire this year. Tennessee pulled off a wild upset of Kentucky last Tuesday but remains below .500 overall and is behind the Tide in the standings on the strength of Alabama’s head-to-head victory. Picked 13th in the preseason, Alabama sits just a game out of a tie for 7th and can make a plausible case for the NIT if it wins out at home. For a team this battered, bruised and limited on scoring talent, that’s a minor miracle.
What was the best part of the game?: It wasn’t the prettiest stretch of basketball, but Bama may have grown up a little before halftime. The Crimson Tide led 31-18 with a little more than five minutes left before intermission when Retin Obasohan sat with second foul (followed minutes later by Arthur Edwards). Bama looked a bit wobbly at first as Mizzou sensed a chance to swing momentum. But instead of losing composure, the Tide hung tough, getting outscored only 10-9 the rest of the half with a makeshift lineup. Alabama was never truly threatened the rest of the way.
Who was the star?: This could go in several directions, but it’s heartening to see Justin Coleman (hopefully) turning a corner. His 30 minutes were the most played by a Tide guard and he finished with 14 points on 4-for-9 field goal shooting and a team-high five assists.
What were the biggest concerns?: Playing with virtually no backups, Missouri’s forwards both had season-best scoring days. Freshman Kevin Puryear, who looks like the best hope for brighter days at Mizzou, scored 22 points. Senior Ryan Rosburg, who looks like a balding mid-career accountant in a pickup game at the Y, added 17. The Tigers made things uncomfortable in the closing minutes with a 13-2 run made possible by Bama becoming sloppy with turnovers for the first time all day. And while Michael Kessens was able to not only play but contribute his best game in a month, the Tide needs Shannon Hale back if it has any realistic hope of winning one of its next three and making a run at a postseason bid.
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