By Chris DePew
Dec. 23, 2017
For the second year in a row, Alabama came to town and stunk up Birmingham’s Legacy Arena with its worst non-conference performance of the season, this time falling 66-50 to Texas.
What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide can be bullied into playing the way its opponent wants. The Longhorns are a grinding team that seeks to slow the pace, clog the line and force opponents into ill-advised shots. Alabama complied like a loyal if dim-witted family pet. When the Tide wasn’t trying 3-pointers that had little prayer of falling (3-for-15), it was sending guards to the rim for one-on-one suicide missions that often ended with the Horns swatting the ball halfway back to Bessemer (nine blocked shots, five of them by Mo Bamba). If Bama couldn’t get out and run following a turnover, it seldom made the halfcourt offense work, as any interest in setting screens and cutting in the lane disappeared after a possession or two.
What were the biggest concerns?: Soft. Disorganized. Unaware. Unmotivated. Poorly coached. Pick whatever negative description you like and it could apply to this game and a team spiraling out of control right when it should be gelling on the eve of conference play. Donta Hall wilted against Bamba, scoring two points and grabbing only four rebounds, while Braxton Key endured a 1-for-8 shooting night and played out of control far more than his two turnovers suggest. Collin Sexton had an off night even before injuring his groin, shooting 4-for-12 from the field and never reaching the foul line.
What was the best part of the game?: Daniel Giddens was the only frontcourt player who looked remotely competitive, racking up 10 points and eight rebounds. When he’s avoided foul trouble, Giddens has produced some quality minutes and can often be the best scoring option when the Tide can’t score in transition and has to run a set play. By next year he could be a real threat every night.
Who was the star?: John Petty isn’t the most efficient scorer around, but he finds a way to get production and right now that’s a godsend on a team that bears an eerie resemblance to Avery Johnson’s previous two offensive clunkers. Petty made five baskets, two of them behind the arc, to finish with 14 points.
What’s next?: SEC play provides no respite, as No. 8 Texas A&M invades Coleman Coliseum on Dec. 30. Tipoff has been moved to 5 p.m. Central for another ESPN2 broadcast.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris