Alabama 80, Georgia 60: Braxton Key puts a dent in Bulldogs’ bubble

Jan 25, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Braxton Key (25) dunks the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 25, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward (25) dunks the ball against the Bulldogs during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew staff
Jan. 25, 2017

Braxton Key scored a career-best 26 points and Alabama collected its most impressive win of the season by far in an 80-60 rout at Georgia.

What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide still does a mean zombie impression when the chips are down. After especially embarrassing losses in Avery Johnson’s first season, Alabama had a habit of bouncing back strong the next game. Sure enough, Bama channeled its frustration from Saturday’s blowout loss in Auburn to ruin the night of the Bulldogs, who are suddenly sliding off the NCAA tournament bubble. Bama outrebounded UGa 40-27 and shot better than 50 percent from the field despite making just seven field goals after halftime. The Tide roared out to a huge lead but could have wilted during a second-half drought as foul trouble piled up, and indeed the Dawgs did cut a 20-point lead in half midway through the second half. But Alabama made its foul shots for once and now somehow finds itself within 1 ½ games of the SEC lead.

What was the best part of the game?: At its best, Alabama’s defense makes life miserable for players who are used to scoring big. And while Yante Maten shook off Bama’s oversized lineup to finish with 20 points, point guard J.J. Frazier never found room on the floor to get comfortable and only had four points, far below his 16.2 average. Excluding Maten, Georgia got just 21 points from its other starters and was held to 38.2 percent shooting from the field. Bama remains undefeated when it holds the other team below 63 points.

Who was the star?: Key now has scored 11 or more points in four out of his last five games and had 16 in the first half alone. Things were going so well for him that Johnson sent him to the line following each of Georgia’s three technical fouls and he made five out of six as part of a 9-for-13 night at the line. He also had nine rebounds and a pair of assists to mitigate his three turnovers. But it would be a shame to focus on him alone when so many others broke through on offense. hit the first two of his four 3-pointers in the last two minutes of the first half as Bama opened up what proved to be a permanent double-digit lead. He and had 15 points each and added 10. was scoreless, but did the job he was asked, clogging up the paint on defense and grabbing 11 rebounds.

What were the biggest concerns?: ’s first tour of the SEC continues to be a rough ride. Foul trouble kept him marooned on the bench for long stretches of the night, and when he reappeared midway through the second half the offense bogged down into a morass of shot clock violation and rushed attempts after too much time standing around with little communication. He scratched out eight points by repeatedly getting himself to the line down the stretch but had no field goal and just one assist against three turnovers. Taylor fouled out and Norris and  had four each. If the Tide hadn’t been able to milk clock with such a big lead and limit possessions it could have easily been left with a patchwork lineup that Georgia’s stars could have burned at the end.

What’s next?: Alabama closes out January back at Coleman Coliseum by going for a sweep of Mississippi State. Saturday’s tipoff is set for 5 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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