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By Chris DePew
Feb. 12, 2019
Alabama allowed 28 points off of 18 turnovers and never had the lead in a humbling 81-62 loss at Mississippi State.
What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide isn’t beating tournament-caliber teams with mediocre effort. It wasn’t difficult to see this game would be a psychological trap. Bama had won three of its past four contests to get a little breathing room and beat the Bulldogs two weeks ago despite not playing its sharpest game. By contrast, State figured to come out desperate after back-to-back four-point losses to No. 19 LSU and No. 5 Kentucky and motivated for revenge after just missing out on a comeback in Tuscaloosa. But just because a team can see a trap game coming doesn’t mean it can avoid it. And all night long Bama was a half-step slower than MSU, seldom getting to a loose ball or securing a timely rebound. The Tide’s passes floated in the air just a little too long and the Bulldogs pounced for 15 steals.
At 15-9, Alabama is still probably on the good side of the NCAA bubble. But to stay that way it likely needs a minimum of five wins over the next seven games, and that means it is going to have to pull off at least one more upset along the way. Even then, tonight was its last chance at a high-quality road win. Going 0-5 in those games will limit how high of a seed the Crimson Tide can expect to earn.
What were the biggest concerns?: The trio of players who led Alabama in scoring were also the ones driving it into the ditch with careless turnovers. Kira Lewis was scoreless until the final minute of the second half before grinding out 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting but turned it over four times. Tevin Mack added 13 points (even with eight missed shots) and five rebounds, but his five giveaways make it hard to feel good about his contribution. Dazon Ingram shot it well and actually came closest to playing at his best, but his 12 points were offset by three turnovers and another four-foul game. Avery Johnson tried benching them at one point to grab attention but he couldn’t keep it up with anemic support from the reserves. Bama only got five bench points and none of them were from John Petty, who should be too experienced by now to have disappearing act games like this.
What was the best part of the game?: Two of Bama’s usual weaknesses turned out to be highlights. The Tide got 14 assists on its 22 field goals. Petty and Herbert Jones had three each and four other players finished with two. Alabama didn’t get to the foul line nearly enough, but did make 11 of its 12 free throws. Perhaps those superlatives will carry over to a close game where they can make a difference.
Who was the star?: Once again Bama finds itself wishing it had leaned more on Donta Hall. The senior scored 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three of the Tide’s five blocked shots (and only one turnover). Fans may not appreciate what they have in Hall until he is gone next year, particularly if Johnson can’t sign Mountain Brook’s Trendon Watford and Alabama is left without a SEC-caliber big man.
What’s next?: Florida invades Tuscaloosa in a matchup of teams that may well be playing for the league’s final NCAA bid. Tipoff on ESPNU is at 1 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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