By Chris DePew
Nov. 21, 2017
No. 25 Alabama scrambled from behind much of the night, built a seven-point lead in the closing minutes, squandered most of it and finally held on for a 77-76 home victory against Texas-Arlington.
What did we learn today?: Even the most talented freshmen are prone to mental lapses. The Mavericks started five seniors and schooled the young Crimson Tide through much of the first half, building as much as a 12-point lead and getting 12 assists before the break while shooting better than 62 percent from the floor. Bama gradually wore down UTA with superior depth and the ability to get to the foul line and the Tide looked like it had control when it held a 72-65 lead with 3:55 left. But the defending Sun Belt champions refused to fold, taking advantage of Erick Neal’s outside shooting and some sloppy turnovers to climb back in. Alabama put the win in jeopardy when Herbert Jones turned the ball over on a five seconds inbounds call out of a timeout with 19.6 seconds left. But Collin Sexton played lockdown defense on Neal’s final shot and Jones rebounded the air ball to prevent a putback chance and preserve the victory.
What was the best part of the game?: Bama’s offense was solid all night but it didn’t start figuring out how to stop UTA until Jones came off the bench to contribute a week’s worth of dirty work in one game. He led the Tide with nine rebounds and four steals while also contributing seven points and three assists in a team-high 34 minutes. But even though they don’t appear in the box score, it was the four charges he drew that short-circuited the Mavericks while firing up fans and teammates alike. There’s room for his offense to improve, but he is becoming an indispensable defensive pest.
Who was the star?: Another game, another career scoring high for Sexton, who finished with 29. He banished any lingering free throw demons by making 11 of 14 from the line on a night where his team needed every last point. Sexton’s four assists could have been seven or eight if his teammates hadn’t been cold from behind the arc. And while Neal had 16 points and 12 assists, Sexton more than held his own against a point guard that could start at a majority of high major schools.
What were the biggest concerns?: John Petty came crashing back to earth, going 2-for-10 from 3-point range and scoring just eight points. More concerning is that Dazon Ingram wasn’t able to pick up the scoring slack, going 1-for-4 from the field and a disappointing 4-for-8 at the line. There should be far fewer nights by now where he disappears in the spotlight of a tough game. UTA outrebounded the Tide 33-28, in part because starting big men Donta Hall and Daniel Giddens combined for just 33 minutes as Avery Johnson went to smaller lineups to try to slow down Kevin Hervey (24 points, 9-for-14 FG).
What’s next?: Alabama will spend Iron Bowl weekend (sometimes referred to as “Thanksgiving” in 49 other states) in Brooklyn playing a pair of games. First up is BYU on Friday at 1:30 p.m. Central time in a game that will be streamed by Stadium via Facebook Live.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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