By Chris DePew
Feb. 26, 2019
After coughing up another double-digit advantage, Alabama kept its poise on the road and rallied back from a five-point deficit with seven minutes remaining to beat South Carolina 68-62.
What did we learn today?: The formula for the Crimson Tide mirrors that of a police buddy film. Kira Lewis stars in the role of the brash rookie who makes his share of mistakes but also moments of brilliance no one else can produce to crack the case open. Donta Hall is the grizzled, patient veteran who insists on handling details by the book, even with his last shift on the horizon. When both are going at the same time, Bama looks like something better than a standard-issue bubble team with a mediocre win percentage.
A classic example was Tuesday night in Columbia. The duo combined for 18 points and eight rebounds in the first half as the Tide built a 13-point lead before going into the break up 31-25. Then both went quiet for a long stretch of the second half, scoring just a basket apiece over the next 16 minutes. But just in time for the grand finale they salted the game away at the line, combining to score 10 of Alabama’s 13 points in the final 3:33. Lewis finished with 17 points and Hall with 15.
What was the best part of the game?: Watching Riley Norris pluck the Gamecocks one more time. Three years ago the senior from Albertville made his first seven 3-pointers to knock USC from the Top 25. Two years ago he scored six points in a fourth overtime period as Bama got another upset. After sitting out last year’s SEC schedule, Norris haunted Colonial Life Arena one last time, scoring all 11 of his points after the half and filling valuable minutes in the backcourt after Dazon Ingram went down with an injury.
Who was the star?: Hall got his league-leading 12th double-double after grabbing 10 rebounds. He also navigated around his four fouls that came from trying to slow down USC’s Chris Silva (23 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots).
What were the biggest concerns?: The game should have been over for good when the Gamecocks missed 26 of their first 30 field goal tries, but once again free throws knocked Bama out of high gear. The Tide was 2-for-7 in the first half and had to get hot late to rise up to 64 percent from the game. Meanwhile USC got 12 free throws in the first 20 minutes alone and ended the game 18-for-23. Add in 15 Alabama turnovers and you have a recipe for near disaster.
What’s next?: No. 13 LSU can win the SEC by sweeping its last three games, but Coleman Coliseum has been most unkind to Top 25 visitors of late. Tipoff on ESPN is at 11 a.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris