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By Chris DePew
Jan. 13, 2018
Alabama survived 19 turnovers and the absence of Donta Hall to secure its first road win of the season, a 74-66 victory at LSU.
What did we learn today?: Even with so many roster changes, defense and rebounding is in this team’s DNA. Eight of the nine players who saw action in Baton Rouge were freshmen or sophomores, all of whom expected to be playing in a free-wheeling uptempo style. But with depleted depth and facing a talented shooting team that came in sky-high after back-to-back SEC road wins, Bama needed to shift gears and play a grinding game. It put on a master class, grabbing eight steals, allowing just five offensive rebounds and taking the air out of the ball once it built a comfortable second-half lead as the Tigers fumed and then panicked, taking increasingly desperate shots as the clock melted away. But what really made the strategy work was the Crimson Tide’s newfound confidence at the foul line, where it went a perfect 18-for-18. It wasn’t the prettiest game, and it’s doubtful such a makeshift lineup can prosper long-term. But if Bama can steal another win or two until Hall returns, there are enough quality games left on the schedule for the Tide to construct a worthy NCAA tournament resume.
What was the best part of the game?: Watching Bama exploit its size advantage in the backcourt. Dazon Ingram had 10 rebounds and Collin Sexton seven as the Crimson Tide guards pulled down 24 rebounds, equal to LSU’s full-squad total. The Tigers got just six second-chance points and never got into an offensive rhythm, shooting just 40 percent from the floor.
Who was the star?: Ingram scored 12 of his 18 points after halftime, but his six points and six rebounds in the first half kept Alabama afloat during a painfully slow offensive start, as the Tide went from being down five points with 7:27 left to pulling out a surprising 32-30 halftime lead. And he had 10 of Bama’s 18 free throws including a couple of clutch trips late with a raucous sellout crowd bearing down on him.
What were the biggest concerns?: Sexton may be a few months away from NBA lottery riches, but he still has room for improvement in college, particularly after he was badly outplayed by freshman counterpart Tremont Waters. Sexton was scoreless for nearly all of the first half and had an unsightly nine turnovers against just three assists. He was playing on the verge of losing control as Bama’s lead slipped from 15 to five points in the closing minutes and picked up an egregious fifth foul, hacking Waters right after he fired an errant 30-footer in the final minute of the game. A 4-for-16 shooting performance didn’t impress the scouts in attendance and a repeat with the schedule only getting tougher will spell disaster.
Daniel Giddens got the start after Saturday’s announcement that Hall will be out 10-14 days after wrist surgery, and it was nothing short of a flop. He barely played in the first half after picking up two quick fouls and finished with a single basket and two rebounds. Galin Smith took up the slack with his best game to date, but it’s hard to picture him holding up against quicker, more physical teams.
What’s next?: No. 22 Auburn brings the nation’s longest winning streak into Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday. Tipoff on the SEC Network is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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