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By Chris DePew
Feb. 10, 2018
Alabama took advantage of its superior size and some timely jump shots to seize momentum and register its biggest margin of victory ever against Tennessee at Coleman Coliseum, downing the No. 15 Volunteers 78-50.
What did we learn today?: No matter how good the opponent may be, Alabama can wreck any team that doesn’t have the size to match up with the Crimson Tide. The Vols had won nine of their last 10 and were starting to gain hype as a team that could win out and grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But Tennessee only had one player taller than 6-foot-7, and that wasn’t nearly enough to stop a locked-in Donta Hall or a rapidly improving Braxton Key. And with the Vols cracking in the paint, that opened the floodgates for Collin Sexton and John Petty, who combined for 30 points and eight assists. Add in an already-stingy defense reaching its peak by bullying the undersized Vols and it was a recipe for a rout. Bama held a 50-18 edge in points in the paint and allowed just eight second-chance points.
What was the best part of the game?: After a free throw to push the lead to 69-44 with 8:01 to play, very few people would have noticed if the Tide had slacked off on the next possession. Instead Key and Herbert Jones took the lead on harassing the Vols outside the perimeter until their only shot of the possession was harmlessly swatted away by Galin Smith as the shot clock expired. It was a perfect example of the defensive effort and intensity Alabama had all night. Tennessee got just one of its 16 field goals in the final 10-plus minutes of the game and Grant Williams was the only Vol to score more than seven points.
Who was the star?: Tennessee has faced its share of talented big men, but no one has scorched the Big Orange as mercilessly as Hall. The pride of Luverne was 8-for-10 from the floor, including six dunks, to finish with 17 points and 11 rebounds, plus three blocks and two steals. Feeding No. 0 the ball has to be the top offensive priority the rest of the way.
What were the biggest concerns?: If it had not been for a 9-for-18 showing at the foul line, there might not be anything to complain about. As is, the big question remains when Bama will play at this level against a team it is expected to beat. Amazingly the Crimson Tide is up to a five-game winning streak against Top 25 teams and a three-game losing streak against unranked squads, which inspires dread with LSU and suddenly reeling Kentucky on deck next week.
What’s next?: What better way to conclude Mardi Gras than with a visit from the Bayou Bengals? Tuesday’s tipoff is at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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