By Chris DePew
Dec. 18, 2018
Donta Hall scored a career-best 21 points as Alabama pulled away in the second half to tame Liberty 84-75 at the Rocket City Classic in Huntsville.
What did we learn today?: A slower start isn’t the worst thing for the Crimson Tide. Big leads against Georgia State and Arizona vanished when Bama lost focus and went into an offensive shell. Tuesday against the Flames, Alabama led only 34-33 at the half and would have been trailing if not for a lopsided edge in free throw attempts. Instead of panicking, Alabama picked up the pace, rededicated itself to going inside, cut down on turnovers and produced its highest-scoring second half of the season. John Petty was Exhibit A for the turnaround, scoring 14 of his 16 points after halftime, joining Hall and Kira Lewis (17 points) for team-high honors. The Tide shot 58 percent from the field in the second half and only committed three turnovers, versus eight in the opening half.
What was the best part of the game?: Signs of a turnaround from Herbert Jones. Finally playing within himself without disappearing entirely, Jones scored eight points and made three of his four field goal attempts, while adding three steals, three rebounds and two assists against just one turnover. It wasn’t the most glamorous stat line but it is just what the Tide needs from him on a nightly basis. He doesn’t have to carry the scoring load as long as he is enough of a credible offensive threat to keep teams from cheating off of him. His size inside kept Liberty off-balance and opened up chances for his teammates.
Who was the star?: Hall was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, 9-for-11 at the line and arguably should have gotten even more touches. Add in five rebounds and four blocks in 30 minutes and it goes down as his best performance through 10 games this season. He and Lewis have the makings of a classic inside-outside headache for opposing defenses and Bama needs to ride that advantage as far as it can.
What were the biggest concerns?: Alabama’s two best bench players both had underwhelming nights. Alex Reese came in just under his scoring average with seven points but went 1-for-5 from the floor and an uncharacteristic 5-for-8 from the line while failing to display much aggressiveness on defense. Dazon Ingram hit a couple of crucial 3-pointers but turned the ball over four times in 15 minutes before fouling out. And Liberty poked holes in the Tide defense, hitting 11 3-pointers and scoring nine second-chance points.
What’s next?: A return to Coleman Coliseum for one last game before Christmas. Big Ten darkhorse Penn State visits Friday night for an 8 p.m. Central tip on the SEC Network.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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