By Chris DePew
March 15, 2019
For the fourth consecutive season, the Crimson Tide crashed out of the SEC tournament on a Big Blue wave, as fourth-ranked Kentucky dispatched Alabama 73-55 in a quarterfinal matchup in Nashville.
What did we learn today?: The difference in a team that has grown and formed an identity since the start of conference play versus one that remains a collection of disjointed parts. Bama played hard and did its best to execute the strategy it was given, even with the Wildcats rolling to an early double-digit lead and never losing control of the game. But while Bama stumbled its way through trying to think about what it had to do, Kentucky played to the identity burned into its DNA. The Cats swipe balls (eight steals), swat shots (11 blocks) and deny good looks at the basket (the Tide shot 30.4 percent). On offense they figure out quickly who’s clicking that night and aren’t afraid to go back to him again and again (Tyler Herro with a game-high 20 points). UK wasn’t perfect, but it played well enough that even the sharpest Tide team would have struggled to win. But Alabama never gave itself a chance with too many mental errors and slow-starting veterans. At 18-15, it has been a season filled with some bad moments, a handful of good ones and too many nights where things were off kilter by just enough to likely keep this team out of the NCAA tournament.
What were the biggest concerns?: The Crimson Tide has never been great at finishing around the rim, but it was absolutely terrible in Music City, making just four of its 18 layup attempts against Kentucky a night after going 10-for-21 in that same category versus Ole Miss. None of Bama’s better shooters could get going, with Kira Lewis 1-for-5 from the field, John Petty 2-for-7 and Tevin Mack 0-for-7. That won’t get the job done against Owensboro School of Trucking, much less a favorite to make the Final Four. Alabama dug itself a hole with early turnovers and got pounded on the glass, but even better play in those areas wouldn’t have made up for the scoring drought.
What was the best part of the game?: Seeing Donta Hall get off the mat in his last meaningful game. With two rebounds and no points at halftime, it looked like Hall’s farewell to the SEC tournament would be especially sour. But he rallied to make his last three shot attempts, went 8-for-8 at the foul line and finished with a respectable 14 points and six rebounds. His senior year wasn’t quite the breakthrough he had hoped for, but he will be remembered as a hard worker who transformed himself from a raw foul-prone shot blocker to a complete two-way post player.
Who was the star?: Wouldn’t it have been nice to see what this misfiring offense could have done if Alex Reese had gotten regular minutes all winter? Bama played 10 scholarship players Friday. Eight of them shot less than 50 percent from the field and Galin Smith (2-for-3, 5 points) disappeared after the opening minutes. Reese stepped into that void and sank six of his 12 shots, including three from behind the arc, to finish with 15 points along with six rebounds. No he isn’t a great defender, but there isn’t a player on the roster without at least one Grand Canyon-sized hole in his game.
What’s next?: Alabama will hear its name called sometime on Selection Sunday, but likely not until the NIT announces its field on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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