Alabama survived another avalanche of turnovers by cracking down on defense to pull away for an 81-73 home victory against Furman.
What did we learn today?: This team is tuned in to what Nate Oats is broadcasting and doing its best to put it into practice. After getting torched by Rhode Island last Friday, Oats emphasized the importance of not letting offensive struggles sap defensive effort. And the Crimson Tide had plenty of opportunity to put that into practice after scoring just 12 points in the first eight minutes and 34 by halftime. But Bama stayed aggressive on defense and used a rare size advantage to push the Paladins out of the paint and forcing them to settle for 3-pointers of largely dubious quality. Furman only went 5-for-11 on layup and dunk attempts and was 11-for-41 beyond the arc. Jordan Lyons caught fire in the second half to finish with 33 points but only other Paladin scored more than seven.
What was the best part of the game?: Watching Bama take a solid punch and bounce right back. Normally a solid 3-point team, Furman went 1-for-11 behind the arc in the first half, so a hot streak felt inevitable. Sure enough the Paladins began the second half on an 11-2 run and drew a third foul on Kira Lewis along the way. But faced with a sudden six-point deficit, the Tide didn’t panic. Instead Lewis and Jaden Shackelford took turns driving the lane to tie the game back up at 42. Alabama didn’t truly pull away until the closing minutes, but in that moment it proved that it had the mental toughness to fight back and regain the upper hand.
Who was the star?: Shackelford hit back-to-back 3s in the first half just when Bama’s offense had gone into a premature turkey coma. That ignited his best game to date as he finished with 14 points in the half and 22 for the game on 7-for-12 shooting to go with five rebounds. He was joined by Lewis with 19 points, John Petty with 16 and Javian Davis with 10 as half of Alabama’s eight-man rotation scored in double figures.
What were the biggest concerns?: Lewis had a team-high seven rebounds to go with his 19 points, but made some uncharacteristic mistakes and took a long time to settle into a productive groove. He also had seven turnovers, twice fouled a 3-point shooter and only scored two points in the first half. With the elite level of competition ahead and next week’s Battle for Atlantis, the Tide needs Lewis in top form if it hopes not to get run off the floor. And with 22 turnovers overall, Bama is lucky that it was even in this game to be able to put it away down the stretch.
What’s next: Three days of basketball in The Bahamas starts with an afternoon matchup against No. 5 North Carolina. Tipoff on Wednesday, Nov. 27 is approximately 1:30 p.m. Central on ESPN.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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