By Chris DePew
Feb. 16, 2019
Alabama got snared in Florida’s ruthless defense and grinding pace from the opening tip as the Crimson Tide absorbed a disheartening 71-53 loss at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: Bama may have already passed its peak this season, and if so the peak was less productive than usual. Every season, Avery Johnson’s teams seem to have a two-week stretch sometime after the new year when the plays are clicking, the chemistry is good and the wins pile up. And right now this team looks nothing like the Crimson Tide from the second half of January, which featured dominating paint play, electric shooting and a pair of home wins against Top 25 teams and near misses against Tennessee and Baylor. Saturday, Alabama made only 19 field goals, barely cleared 25 percent from 3-point range, stunk it up again from the foul line (10-for-21) and got whipped on the boards yet again despite the Gators having one of the shakiest frontcourts in the SEC.
But worst of all, Alabama’s effort was lacking against its biggest competitor in the league for the NCAA bubble. The Gators seemed to get to every loose ball, they had plenty of room to shoot and they never surrendered a point on the fast break, using a zone press masterfully to frustrate the Tide and allow time for Florida’s defense to shut down the lane. A listless midweek performance at Mississippi State wasn’t enough to motivate effort. A 21-point Florida blowout in this same building last season wasn’t enough to motivate effort. It leaves fans wondering what it would take to motivate these guys again and why a roster consisting mostly of role players and dead weight feels entitled to operate at three-quarters speed in the first place.
What were the biggest concerns?: After an 0-for-7 start, Bama finally sank its first field goal with 12:12 left in the opening half. The drought is the attention grabber, but being held to just one field goal try per minute is a formula for failure even for a team that is shooting well. Sure enough Alabama ended with just 43 attempts (seven fewer than the Gators) thanks to a toxic combination of 11 turnovers and only five offensive rebounds. Florida proved why it is the best defensive team in the SEC by staying locked in on every possession. The Gators understood their game plan and carried it out to perfection. Alabama got its game plan screamed out repeatedly by a clearly-frustrated Johnson, to no discernible effect.
It seems like every game at least two starters and often three go missing. Saturday it was Dazon Ingram, Tevin Mack and Herbert Jones crowding the milk carton, scoring a combined nine points on 3-for-14 shooting. That left it to Kira Lewis to again try and carry the scoring load, and he produced 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting, which was helpful but not nearly enough to paper over so many wasted minutes from his fellow starters.
What was the best part of the game?: When it remembered it had an advantage in the post, Bama did some damage there, with Galin Smith scoring a couple of early baskets and Donta Hall breaking through once his teammates finally got him some paint touches. The Crimson Tide has never stuck with an offensive identity for more than a couple of games in a row, but it would be nice to see if their senior big man could carry the load and revive a season that is slipping away.
Who was the star?: Hall made all but one of his six shots to finish with 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. That’s as close to a star turn as Bama got in this sad sack game.
What’s next?: The Tide isn’t giving off a vibe that it’s particularly inspired to seek revenge, but the opportunity is available Tuesday night at Texas A&M. Tip-off on the SEC Network is set for 8 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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