By Chris DePew
Feb. 27, 2018
Alabama missed 19 consecutive field goal attempts during a brutal first half and put its NCAA tournament hopes in severe jeopardy with a 73-52 blowout loss to Florida at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: Nothing kills a bad product faster than good marketing. And Avery Johnson’s efforts to build excitement and raise expectations for his program may have burned bridges with Bama’s fan base now that the Crimson Tide is crashing and burning down the stretch for a third consecutive year. Alabama lost six of its last eight games in 2016, five of its last eight last spring and is now mired in a four-game slide that threatens to leave the most-hyped freshman class in school history stuck at the same dead-end that has caused the program to miss the last five NCAA tournaments. Tuesday’s crowd went from cheering nervously at the start to groaning as the game slipped away to booing at the end of a listless half to laughing sarcastically at the mess before them as they beat an early path to the exits. The Tide needs two more wins to feel secure about its NCAA chances, and possibly a third if it should lose again Saturday and slip down to a play-in game at the SEC tourney. Right now nobody outside the locker room expects those wins to come, and it is an open question how much belief exists inside the locker room.
What were the biggest concerns?: Herbert Jones got a surprise start and grabbed five rebounds in just eight minutes, but once he left with a head injury Bama’s limited supply of toughness seemed to go with him. Throughout the decisive first half and well after the game was out of reach in the second, the Gators initiated physical contact every time a Tide player got close to the hoop. That led to an avalanche off-balance shots, missed layups and a handful of barely productive trips to the foul line. Alabama was so bad and so meek shooting the ball that it could turn its 20 offensive rebounds into just 11 second-chance points.
Collin Sexton led his team in scoring with perhaps the emptiest 14 points of his career after going 0-for-7 from the floor in the first half as the Gators built a 37-18 halftime lead. At this point, a successful NBA career for him will only rub salt in the wound for fans looking back on what increasingly feels like a lost season, with Bama never able to develop true team chemistry or figure out how to tap into Sexton’s scoring potential without turning his teammates into spectators.
What was the best part of the game?: Fulfilling the fever dreams of armchair coaches and talk radio callers everywhere, Johnson signalled his disgust with the night’s effort by inserting walk-on Lawson Schaffer with 14:02 remaining and leaving him in to play out the rest of the game. Aided in part by Florida shifting into cruise control with a comfortable lead, the junior guard from Cullman managed to match Sexton with a team-high three assists.
Who was the star?: Braxton Key went 3-for-6 from the field in the first half, a decent effort that looked downright Herculean compared to the 1-for-24 combined effort from his teammates. Key ended with 11 points and eight rebounds and was the only player in a white jersey that looked like a credible SEC-level player.
What’s next?: Bama tries to salvage a .500 record in conference play in College Station against Texas A&M. Tipoff on ESPN2 is Saturday at 1 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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