While most of its fan base was fast asleep, Alabama’s two-game Las Vegas swing got off to a rocky start late Monday, as the Crimson Tide fell 68-60 to Valparaiso in the semifinals of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event tournament.
What did we learn overnight?: Better hope that Bama’s 3-point attempts are falling, because they’re getting launched regardless. A miserable 6-for-21 showing from behind the arc dragged the Tide’s overall shooting percentage down to 41.8 percent despite hitting half its field goals in the first half. Even with the cold shooting, the game was there for the taking most of the night as neither team could establish a rhythm in the choppy, foul-plagued contest. But Bama never found a lineup that clicked together and fell back into bad habits of standing around on offense waiting for one-on-one plays, then playing out of control as the Crusaders padded their lead down the stretch.
What were the biggest concerns?: Coach Avery Johnson has spent November experimenting with lineup combinations and balancing playing time to see who will shine. That’s led to different players thriving from game to game (Nick King and Donta Hall had their best games of the year against Valpo), but also means Bama doesn’t yet have a go-to player or combination it can consistently rely on down the stretch of a tight game. Out of the 11 players who saw the floor, 10 played between 13 and 28 minutes. Hopefully the rotations and roles become more clearly defined by December, when the non-conference schedule steps up in difficulty and Bama needs to impress if it hopes to pull off a surprise NCAA bid.
What was the best part of the game?: Even after the momentum turned against it for good, Bama kept clawing back until the final seconds. Neither team opened up anything resembling a comfortable lead until roughly the five-minute mark, when Johnson got a technical after protesting a foul that wasn’t called on a Riley Norris layup, followed by a dicey whistle on Hall on the other end. Four free throws later, Valpo doubled its lead to eight points and went up as many as 10. The Crimson Tide twice cut the deficit to four points, but there just wasn’t enough time left to overcome the blow.
Who was the star?: Hall’s nine points came within a point of matching Norris and Corban Collins for team-high honors, and his 12 rebounds were a career best. And for the first time in recent memory, he and Jimmie Taylor (six points) were both effective in the same game, shooting a combined 7-for-13 from the floor.
What’s next?: Bama faces reeling Saint Louis in a Wednesday consolation game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The 8:30 p.m. Central contest will again be shown online only via the bd Global channel on YouTube.
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