By Chris DePew
Dec. 3, 2017
After a few weeks of sloppy play masked by brilliant play at crunch time, the bill came due for No. 24 Alabama as the lethargic crimson tide dropped a 65-62 home decision to UCF.
What did we learn today?: This young team loses focus too easily and isn't mentally tough enough to impose its will on opponents. The beefy, plodding Knights needed to slow the pace down to have any chance, and Bama played right into their hands. Instead of sharp cuts and timely screens, Alabama was too often passing the ball aimlessly around the perimeter and then trying to force a jump shot to fall off the dribble. And that's just the possessions where the Tide didn't have one of its 15 turnovers. A shot clock malfunction early in the second half caused a lengthy delay and Alabama never rediscovered its already-shaky rhythm, going a brutal 8-for-22 from the field over the final 20 minutes. It looked like a bad flashback from the first two years of the avery johnson era when the Crimson Tide was one of the nation's most inept offenses.
What were the biggest concerns?: collin sexton had his worst game by far, going 0-for-4 from the field and scratching out seven points at the foul line. His back-to-back highlight-reel assists in the second half sparked a late Bama run but he only had three for the game, matching his turnovers. And it did not seem like Johnson was very creative in trying to get him going either. Until a couple of late possessions, Sexton pretty much stuck to the point instead of running plays as an off guard. Dazon Ingram went back into witness protection on a day where his leadership was sorely needed, going just 2-for-6 from the floor and only attempting two free throws. Alabama outplayed UCF in the paint in the first half but completely wilted down the stretch, losing the rebounding battle 37-28. But the most maddening part came on defense, where the Knights baited Bama into over-pursuing the ball inside, then patiently kicked it out for an open 3-pointer. UCF usually makes about a quarter of its shots from behind the arc, but was 7-for-15 on Sunday.
What was the best part of the game?: Herbert Jones has got to cut down on turnovers if he wants to keep getting heavy minutes in sec play, but there's no questioning his defensive intensity. The freshman from Greensboro had five steals and looked like he had drawn yet another charge with 25 seconds left and the score tied 62-62, before replay revealed one foot was inside the restricted arc under the basket. But his fearless sacrifice in the lane has paid off more than once already this year and it will happen again sometime. Bama could stand for his grit to become infectious.
Who was the star?: donta hall may have earned himself a nba paycheck down the line with the way he showed up against UCF's 7-foot-6 center, Tacko Fall. Hall made all nine of his field goals, finishing with a career-high 20 points and matching Daniel Giddens' four blocks. Fall played just 11 minutes before fouling out, finishing with six points, one rebound and one block.
What's next?: After three straight one-possession games at coleman coliseum, the Crimson Tide welcomes its toughest home opponent to date, Rhode Island. Wednesday's game tips off at 7 p.m. Central on sec network-Plus.
Follow Chris DePew on twitter @TideFansChris
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