Alabama 88, Missouri 74: Tide keeps on trucking despite whistles

All five Alabama starters scored in double figures as the Crimson Tide survived foul trouble and second-half jitters to pull past 88-74 at Coleman Coliseum.

What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide found a way to get refocused after letting the officials’ whistles get under their skin. The number of fouls alone (22) doesn’t seem unusual in context, and the Tigers actually ended up getting called for one more by the time the game ended. But virtually every foul Bama committed was in the act of shooting, and Mizzou couldn’t be shaken at the line, setting a SEC record by making all 31 of its free throws. As that streak kept building and the crowd’s grumbling grew louder, it began to snowball psychologically, to the point the bench drew a technical after was called for his third foul on a charge. Lewis soon added a fourth, but any chance of trying to protect him was gone when fouled out with over nine minutes left to play.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the inevitable Alabama collapse. The Tigers got as close as three points but never let Mizzou tie or take the lead. And the Crimson Tide showed plenty of poise itself at the line, going 25-for-30. Once the visitors started rushing shots in the last few minutes, Bama was back in its element and put the game well out of reach for its eighth win in its last 11 games.

What was the best part of the game?: Bama’s top three scorers resembled a relay team, going all out for a quick burst of scoring before giving way to the next man. was first out of the gate, scoring the Tide’s first six points and 15 in the first half. heated up in the middle portion of the game, mixing in the deep balls with some nice inside moves and a couple of trips to the foul line to eventually match Reese with 17 total points. had a 9-0 run of his own in the first half then stayed relatively quiet until the closing minutes, when Bama turned to him to make the tough shots and the junior from Huntsville delivered, surging late to finish with a game-high 20 points. That trio combined for 11 of Bama’s 13 treys.

Who was the star?: at the foul line isn’t always a comforting sight, but the junior from Greensboro delivered Saturday, making seven of his eight attempts and only missing one shot from the floor to finish with 11 points. Now add in 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and his usual salty defense and you have a winning formula that put his team over the top on a day when it needed to be mentally tough to survive.

What were the biggest concerns?: After back-to-back subpar showings from 3-point range, Alabama got back in the groove with 11 3-pointers in the first half. But the Crimson Tide was just 2-for-14 behind the arc in the second half, which was the less visible reason Mizzou got back in the game. There are two more games ahead where Bama should be comfortably favored, and the Tide better use them to get things ironed out for good from 3-point range before what’s shaping up as a monster road trip to LSU at the end of the month.

What’s next?: The Crimson Tide heads to Nashville to take on a Vanderbilt team in free fall. Tipoff on the SEC Network is Wednesday at 8 p.m. Central.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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