Tennessee 71, Alabama 68: Petty breaks out but others shrink in spotlight

Jan 19, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Tevin Mack (34) and forward Donta Hall (0) battle Tennessee Volunteers forward Kyle Alexander (11) for a rebound during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 19, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard (34) and forward (0) battle Volunteers forward Kyle Alexander (11) for a rebound during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew
TideFans.com Staff
Jan. 19, 2019

matched his career high with 30 points but Alabama couldn’t overcome a cold start and terrible foul shooting in a 71-68 loss at third-ranked Tennessee.

What did we learn today?: Yet again, the Crimson Tide will play up or down to the level of competition every time. With both teams ahead of them falling this week, the Volunteers tipped off knowing they were a win away from likely securing the No. 1 ranking in next week’s AP poll. But despite opening the game on a 15-4 run, UT couldn’t ever fully shake Bama off and the Tide started finding cracks in the armor. A 12-point halftime deficit soon melted away and from that point on neither team led by more than two possessions. It was the kind of fight Bama showed in its upset of Kentucky, and what was missing in second-half home collapses against Georgia State and Texas A&M. Those two games and a no-show clunker against Northeastern are what stand between Alabama and a comfortable position within the projected NCAA field instead of the wrong side of the bubble. Alabama will need to pick off a couple of more talented teams, and history suggests they can. What will they do with the “should win” games?

What were the biggest concerns?: Three starters – , and Tevin Mack – went scoreless in the first half and finished the game a combined 2-for-12 from the floor. Ingram played mostly within himself and got to the line but made just one of his four free throws, contributing to the Crimson Tide’s 8-for-18 showing at the stripe. Jones racked up four turnovers in short order and somehow pictured himself as a killer jump shooter despite a couple of 3-point attempts that could have landed halfway back to Chattanooga if the backboard wasn’t in the way. And Mack only played seven minutes after opening scoreless minutes after opening with an airball 3-pointer, another long range miss and then getting brutally faked out for an easy jump shot by reigning SEC player of the year Grant Williams. It’s hard to beat any conference team when 60 percent of your starting five is a net drag on the team, much less a Final Four contender like the Vols.

What was the best part of the game?: Stopping Donta Hall had to be Tennessee’s top priority after he dominated the Vols last year in Tuscaloosa. But Hall wouldn’t be denied, ringing up 16 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season and sixth in seven games.

Who was the star?: Petty had 10 points already in the first half, then exploded to supernova status after coming out of the locker room, scoring the first eight points in a 13-0 run to give the Tide its first lead of the game. And it wasn’t just about his 3-point shooting, although he was 6-for-10 behind the arc. He drove to the rim, he made contested pull-up jumpers, he distributed the ball to open teammates after the Vols redoubled their defensive pressure. It was a reminder of why he was a 5-star prospect and makes you wonder what it would take to get him that dialed in every night.

What’s next?: Back to Tuscaloosa for a Tuesday night showdown against No. 18 Ole Miss. Tipoff on ESPNU is at 8 p.m. Central.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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