By Chris DePew
November 18, 2016
What did we learn today?: Just how sweet a luxury depth can be. Bama got 59 points from its bench as 11 different men scored and no one played more than 23 minutes. The numbers might have been skewed by sometimes starter Shannon Hale emerging from the bench with a game-high 19 points but only a little. Reserves Ar’Mond Davis and Avery Johnson Jr. combined for 30 points and the trio had all but one of Bama’s 3-pointers. After last year’s injury grind and transfer redshirts left Bama with little quality depth, seeing what can happen with a full roster is a revelation.
What was the best part of the game?: Re-establishing the Tide’s trademark defensive tenacity. Both teams wound up shooting an identical 42.6 percent from the field, but the Cardinals generously padded their numbers in the closing moments after the game had gotten comically lopsided. More telling was Ball State’s futility from behind the arc (4-for-17), its first-half shooting percentage (31 percent) and its 21 turnovers, 14 of them on Alabama steals. After getting scorched by Dayton earlier this week, it was encouraging to see Bama return to form against a veteran team that can score in bunches.
Who was the star?: Hale’s breakout games can’t be predicted, only enjoyed in the moment. But he did more than just score. He piled up points efficiently (7-for-12, 3-for-5 3-pointers), grabbed four rebounds and contributed to the defensive lockdown. But Johnson’s career-best night was too good for him not to grab some of the spotlight. He had 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals, and for the first time looked like a genuine threat and not just a minutes filler for Dazon Ingram or Corban Collins.
What were the biggest concerns?: Bama’s nearly five-minute drought to open the game could have been disastrous had Ball State not matched it goose egg for goose egg. And free throw shooting continues to prop up antacid sales in the state, with the Tide going a miserable 13-for-22 at the line.
What’s next?: Plug in the coffee pot and put fresh batteries in the radio. Alabama plays Valparaiso Monday night in Las Vegas in the semifinals of the MGM Grand Main Event. Tip time for the non-televised game is 11 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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