Alabama 68, Rhode Island 64: Strange, sloppy game goes Tide’s way

Dec 6, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Collin Sexton (2) shoots over Rhode Island Rams guard Jarvis Garrett (1) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 6, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard (2) shoots over Rams guard Jarvis Garrett (1) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew Staff
Dec. 6, 2017

Five different Alabama players scored in double figures as the Crimson Tide held off Rhode Island for a 68-64 home victory.

What did we learn today?: The Rams’ flaws were just enough to let Bama get away with its own glaring weaknesses. Rhode Island didn’t have the size to match up with and in the paint, got killed on the glass (50-31), shot an ice-cold 35.2 percent from the field and played so passively that it shot 28 fewer free throws than the Tide.

So how did it tie the game down the stretch and leave the home fans sweating? Alabama had an unsightly 24 turnovers and had to heat up from the foul line late to go just 24-for-39. The Rams are a good team that will get better as injuries heal, but Bama will get laughed out of any gym in the SEC with two dozen turnovers. And when the Crimson Tide can’t hit free throws, its offense sinks right back to the depths of the last two seasons. A 2-for-11 effort from behind the arc would have been painful enough before, but on a team this talented it is practically inexcusable.

What was the best part of the game?: Seeing grind out a dozen points the hard way. Hopes were high when his first 3-point try went in that it would light a spark, but he wound up going just 1-for-5 from deep. But with Collin Sexton missing for much of the second half after getting poked in the eye, Bama started getting desperate for offense and Petty went into scramble mode. With the Rams playing him a little looser after his four first-half assists, he started finding openings around the foul line and paths to the basket, even snagging a couple of rebounds at key times. Petty will have to put in maximum effort to develop into the NBA prospect he wants to be and it was important that he see a tangible reward for the work he put in Wednesday.

Who was the star?: Hall led Bama with 13 points and tied with 14 rebounds. The best way to see how much Hall has developed sometimes is to watch Giddens on the floor. Giddens (12 points, six rebounds) had a fine night too, but his game is where Hall’s was the last two seasons – plodding, mechanical, tentative. By contrast, Hall fits in well with this season’s faster pace, making smooth cuts to the basket and fluidly going to the hoop or reversing the ball out of the hoop instead of standing still and pondering his next move. If anything Alabama tried to run too much offense through him, leading to some awkward turnovers, but he rightfully will be a regular part of game plans going forward.

What were the biggest concerns?: It’s a struggle to make sense of the way the coaches handled Sexton’s return to the game. After being injured in the closing minutes of the first half, the freshman point guard went back to the locker room and spent most of the second half on the bench, where it was assumed he’d watch the rest of the game. But once Rhode Island shaved a 13-point deficit down to one possession with under six minutes to play, back came Sexton. Bama needed him too, as he scored five of his 11 points in the closing minutes. But if he was healthy enough to play, why wasn’t he out there getting valuable minutes against the Rams’ veteran backcourt? And if there was an elevated risk for him to play, why risk your franchise player in a non-conference game in early December?

What’s next?: Alabama’s first true road test comes Saturday against Final Four contender Arizona. Saturday’s tipoff is at 9 p.m. Central on ESPN2.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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