Alabama honored its three seniors before their last regular season game at Coleman Coliseum, but it was the freshman duo of Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key that combined for 41 points as the Crimson Tide downed Ole Miss 70-55 Wednesday to clinch the No. 5 seed in next week’s SEC tournament.
What did we learn today?: Bama needs to be aggressive with the ball to generate enough points to win. It’s understandable why the Tide goes into an offensive shell. It isn’t blessed with strong shooters, it is turnover prone and with all the energy Alabama spends on defense it is natural to want to catch a breath on the other end. But lately, even elite defensive performances haven’t been enough to rescue the Crimson Tide, and something had to give. So Alabama attacked the basket more against Ole Miss, it forced passes in against the zone and it found a way to live with 18 turnovers because the offensive momentum built on itself. Ingram, who has the talent to be a consistent scorer but is often too quick to turn down scoring opportunities, shouldered more of the burden himself and ended up with a career high 22 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the floor. Bama is desperate for a consistent scoring threat and Ingram has as good a chance as any current player to become one.
What was the best part of the game?: With Crimson Tide in another first-half drought and stuck on just one made 3-pointer, coach Avery Johnson gambled big and hit the jackpot. Sophomore walk-on Lawson Schaffer, normally reserved for the last minute of blowouts, entered the game and nailed a trey that sparked an 11-2 run to close the half. Bama led by four at the half after trailing by as many as seven and its 29 first-half points were the second highest showing since mid-February. The Tide kept right on scoring after the break and built up enough points to survive a small Rebels run without panicking.
Who was the star?: Key absorbed three charges in the first half that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but plenty of the other good things he did made the box score. His 19 points were most welcome, as was his solid shooting from the floor (7-for-11) and the foul line (4-for-5). He also added seven rebounds and five assists, along with two of the Tide’s seven blocked shots.
What were the biggest concerns?: Bola Olaniyan scoring only four points isn’t that unusual, especially since the rebounding specialist grabbed another 10 boards. But the fact that he outscored both Jimmie Taylor and Donta Hall is disappointing, as the lack of consistent post scoring is something that has held this team back from making a serious NCAA tournament push. Riley Norris seemed out of sorts coming off the bench due to the senior night juggling of the starting lineup. He only made one field goal, the second time in three games he basically disappeared on offense after more than a month of consistent play.
What’s next?: Alabama ends the regular season Saturday at old rival Tennessee. Tipoff on the SEC Network is scheduled for noon Central time.
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