By Chris DePew
Jan. 16, 2019
Alabama got 33 points from its bench players and the Crimson Tide got a much-needed 70-60 bounce back win at Missouri.
What did we learn today?: There’s still some defensive grit in this team’s DNA. Following back-to-back top 20 finishes nationally in defensive efficiency and with nine players returning from last year’s team, it seemed quite reasonable to expect defense to remain a Bama mainstay even as the offense shook off the last of the scoring doldrums from the Anthony Grant era. Instead the Tide lost its defensive identity at times, which came to a head at the start of SEC play when it gave up 75, 88 and 81 points. There were some more tense moments when Mizzou started off 6-for-11 from 3-point range, but the Tigers only made one more trey the rest of the night and Alabama gave up a season low in points.
What was the best part of the game?: The workmanlike finish to salt the game away without drama. When the final media timeout arrived with 4:15 left, what had been a 13-point lead was down to a 57-51 Bama advantage and no one was sure if the Tide was mentally tough enough to close things out. But Donta Hall stepped up with a key putback basket to seal his eighth double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds), Kira Lewis hit a corner 3-pointer on an otherwise quiet night and Alabama remained steady at the foul line to secure its second road win of the season.
Who was the star?: Avery Johnson Jr. has been good for one or two out-of-nowhere performances each year, and he finally got one of those nights for his senior season. Johnson led all scorers with 14 points, including his first two 3-pointers of the season, and didn’t turn the ball over. How shocking was his performance? Consider that Johnson was averaging 1.4 points per game, with a season high of four points against Murray State.
What were the biggest concerns?: Alabama seemed so determined to use its depth advantage against Mizzou that it was hard for many regulars to get in the flow of the game. Lewis only attempted one shot before halftime and didn’t get many chances to handle the ball. Alex Reese by contrast scored seven points in the first half but only got six minutes on the floor the rest of the way and 16 in all. By contrast Galin Smith, who didn’t even play against Texas A&M, played 17 minutes despite being a defensive liability in the paint and turning it over three times. Hall played 29 minutes, Tevin Mack just 11 and the other eight players were all in a range between 15 and 25 minutes. As of this week, Bama’s next four SEC opponents all are ranked in the Top 25 and it is hard to have confidence that randomized lineups heavy with below-average players can keep pace.
What’s next?: The Crimson Tide begins its most brutal portion of the schedule Saturday on Rocky Top. Tipoff with No. 3 Tennessee is at 1 p.m. Central on ESPN2.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris