By Chris DePew
March 2, 2019
After shooting under 40 percent for most of the game, No. 13 LSU made nine of its last 11 field goal tries to knock off Alabama 74-69 at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: As always, the Crimson Tide’s postseason fate will be in limbo until the very end of the regular season and probably into the SEC tournament as well. Knocking off the Tigers wouldn’t have guaranteed a NCAA berth, but it would have been very close to a lock. Instead, Bama finds itself at 17-12 entering the final week of the regular season for the fifth time in as many years (h/t to John Mitchell). A March sweep of Auburn and Arkansas would probably be enough, but it’s hard to trust this team to remain focused for what would be five games in a row. The psychological difference between a LSU squad that’s now the odds on favorite to win the league and a Bama team fighting for its life is confidence in the ability to close out games. The Tigers are now 10-4 in games decided by six points or less, while the Tide dropped to 6-6.
What were the biggest concerns?: Out of Bama’s regular rotation players, four played well to very well and the other four would have helped the team more by staying in bed. Kira Lewis had the worst game of his life, going 3-for-16 from the floor and turning it over three times. LSU’s Ja’Vonte Smart and Tremont Waters clearly had him rattled, and he kept digging a deeper hole with poor quality pull-up jumpers early in the shot clock that killed the flow of the offense. Dazon Ingram and Tevin Mack got benched for lack of effort before Alabama ever scored and Avery Johnson probably wishes he could have left them there. They combined for one point, seven missed field goals and three turnovers, including a pair of truly egregious errors from Ingram. Those three starters (and usual suspect Daniel Giddens) each had negative efficiency scores. It is a credit to their teammates that the Tide hung in the game, particularly Riley Norris and Herbert Jones, who combined for all 24 of Bama’s bench points.
What was the best part of the game?: Watching Bama come to life after a rare technical foul on Johnson. The home crowd and bench was furious after a Lewis layup attempt got swatted with what looked like possible goaltending, followed by a Norris push-off foul on the other end. Replay appeared to show both calls were correct, but stoking emotion turned out to be more important than winning the argument on merit. Following the Skylar Mays free throws, the Tide went on a 14-4 run to take its largest lead of the game at 49-43. It’s the kind of motivational tactic that might be successful once or twice a season at most, but it gave Alabama a needed jolt of energy on a day where the offense struggled yet again.
Who was the star?: With due respect to yet another Donta Hall double-double, John Petty was the scoring machine Bama needed with none of the other pure guards stepped up. He had 12 of the Tide’s 28 points in the first half and finished with 23 points and five 3-pointers, including two in the final minute to keep LSU from closing out the game early. His play at the very end of last season salvaged a disappointing freshman year and now he needs to find more March magic to carry this team across the finish line.
What’s next?: As with so much else in life, beating Auburn could make everything a great deal better. The Tide gets its chance Tuesday in Tuscaloosa. Tipoff on ESPNU is at 8 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris