Alabama came out lethargic against No. 22 LSU and by the time the Crimson Tide was ready to compete, the host Tigers were galloping away with an eventual 90-74 victory.
What did we learn today?: Bama hasn’t truly been locked in as a team for two weeks and the bill finally came due in Baton Rouge, where everything was just a little out of sync and quickly snowballed. John Petty lost a spot in the starting five because coach Nate Oats wasn’t satisfied with his effort at practice. Kira Lewis struggled to be effective in the first half and picked up three fouls. Then Lewis didn’t have a proper substitute because Beetle Bolden was sidelined by illness. Meanwhile the Tide got mauled on the glass again and was powerless to stop LSU’s drives to the basket, yielding 51 points in the first half, including 17 free throws. The Tigers shot 50.7 percent from the field for the night to remain perfect in SEC play. Alabama, on the other hand, gave up the most points it had in regulation since being thrashed by Iowa State on Thanksgiving night in the Bahamas.
What were the biggest concerns?: The Tide showed a little spark coming out of halftime and cut an 18-point halftime deficit down to 61-53 on a Jaylen Forbes trey with 13:12 left. But then came another burst of out-of-focus play to kill off any comeback hopes. Jaden Shackelford tried a low-percentage pass into a double team that led to a fast break layup by LSU’s Skylar Mays. Forbes then compounded the error with a casual inbounds pass that Mays promptly picked off, leading to a putback dunk. Alex Reese airmailed a 3-point attempt and the Tigers quickly moved back down the floor, eventually getting an uncontested dunk. In 64 seconds, the deficit went from nine points to 15. Bama never got any closer than nine points again as LSU matched its biggest winning margin in a conference game. If a team isn’t focused from the very start of a game, it’s difficult to flip a switch in the middle of the action.
What was the best part of the game?: He won’t win any efficiency awards, but Shackelford stepped up to shoot when a lot of teammates were missing in action. The freshman from California hit five 3-pointers on a career-high 14 attempts and finished with 21 points while logging 38 minutes. Shackelford has now reached double figures in nine of his last 11 games, and the 21 points is the most he’s scored in a SEC game.
Who was the star?: Reese got off to a lightning-quick start and came in just behind Shackelford with 17 points. His other stats (three rebounds, two assists, two blocks) sound modest, until you realize he also had no turnovers, stayed out of foul trouble and often was Bama’s only credible post threat with Herbert Jones struggling to find his shot and Galin Smith and Javian Davis contributing very little.
What’s next?: Arkansas arrives in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday for a matchup of potential bubble teams. Tipoff on the SEC Network is at 5 p.m. Central.
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