Alabama held Missouri to 19 first-half points and kept an opponent under 60 for the third time in SEC play as the Crimson Tide pulled away for a 68-56 home victory.
What did we learn today?: Bama’s offense is a crock pot, not a microwave. In five league games this year, the Tide is averaging an anemic 29.4 points in the first half, including just 26 against Mizzou. Although Bama never trailed Wednesday, it got lured into the Tigers’ lethargic pace of play early, milking the shot clock down and passing the ball along the perimeter with only modest efforts to work it inside. But for the second game in a row, things started clicking after intermission when Bama begin running sets with purpose and wearing down an inferior opponent. It made 13 of its 23 field goals in the second half, including a 6-for-12 showing from 3-point range. There’s only so much one can read into success against Missouri, which has lost nine in a row, is 5-12 overall and hasn’t won a true road game since January, 2014. But the most Alabama could get out of the game was a clean win and avoiding injuries and the Tide did both.
What was the best part of the game?: Finding the sweet spot for 3-point attempts. Shots from the corner have a better chance of going in, particularly when the shooter can catch the ball in rhythm and go up quickly. In the opening four minutes of the second half, Alabama ran a play to get a shooter open at that sweet spot and it paid off with a combined three makes from Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key. The Tide went 4-for-7 on corner 3s, a sharp contrast from its overall 9-for-27 showing from behind the arc.
Who was the star?: Riley Norris cooled off after the break but he was easily the best player in the first half when the game was at least nominally still in doubt. He had 11 of his 13 points in the opening 10 minutes and finished the game hitting 5-for-10 from the floor while soaking up a team-high 34 minutes. He tied Avery Johnson Jr. for the scoring lead, while Ingram and Key also had double figures.
What were the biggest concerns?: Missouri entered the game as the very worst Division I in 3-point field goal percentage (26.6), but the Tigers made six of their first 10 treys and finished 7-for-14. Defending the arc has quietly been Bama’s weakness on that end of the floor and it can’t afford any letdowns against better teams because the offense is in no shape to make up points. Alabama had a clear talent advantage on Mizzou but refused to push the pace, finishing with zero fast break points and only scoring nine off the Tigers’ 19 turnovers. Foul shooting was again a disgrace (13-for-28), but that is beyond any hope for a lasting midseason cure. Improvement won’t come until better shooters do. After back-to-back strong efforts, Donta Hall was a complete bust. He fouled out with just four rebounds and three garbage-time points.
What’s next?: Alabama completes its Tiger trilogy on Saturday with a visit to archrival Auburn. Tipoff on ESPN2 is set for 3 p.m.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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