Kira Lewis scored a career-high 37 points and Alabama’s offense stayed red hot on a snowy day in Georgia, as the Crimson Tide outlasted the Bulldogs 105-102 in overtime.
What did we learn today?: Sometimes a high-scoring team can just shoot its way out of all its troubles for a day. Many of the underlying issues from a three-game losing streak popped up again in Athens. The Crimson Tide couldn’t protect the rim, allowing 58 points in the paint. It lost the rebounding battle again, 42-37. It endured a lengthy cold spell from the 3-point line, going 1-for-10 in the first half. And ultimately it didn’t matter because Lewis and company kept piling up points at an ever-faster pace. The Tide had 45 points in the first half, 47 in the second half and 13 in the five minutes of overtime, which translates into a pace to score 52 if it had been a full 20 minutes. Bama averaged well over two points per minute, and that’s even including a slump after halftime that let UGA build a 12-point lead.
All of this would have seemed downright absurd over the past decade, when Alabama averaged less than 70 points a game for eight consecutive seasons and never more than the 72.4 points per game average during Collin Sexton’s lone season. Now the Tide sits fifth in the country, averaging 81.6 points per game. Nate Oats hasn’t solved all of Bama’s problems in his first season but he has permanently altered the mindset of this program and the perception of what is possible on offense. Even as February drags on and the schedule looks treacherous, moments like these bring hope that these are the early days of becoming something other than the “same old Bama.”
What was the best part of the game?: At one point late in regulation, John Petty was described as “chipping in” 18 points, which is an absurd description even in a game with this many points. But what got lost in the glare of Lewis’ epic night were the extraordinary efforts of several other players to make sure his efforts weren’t in vain. Petty not only finished with 21 points despite making only one 3-pointer, he added seven rebounds, four assists and held Anthony Edwards, perhaps the nation’s top freshman, to 14 points on 5-for-17 shooting. Javian Davis gave Bama a true paint threat to open up the floor in the backcourt, notching 13 points and eight rebounds. By the time he fouled out in overtime, he was basically a walking cramp, having expended every ounce of energy. And Beetle Bolden, who was too sick to even play last week, came off the bench for 35 high-energy minutes to not only give Lewis occasional rest but to help take the harder defensive assignments. On top of that he provided 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Who was the star?: What’s scary is that Lewis’ career night could have been even better. He was just 10-for-15 from the line, with a couple of agonizing misses late in regulation, not to mention an ill-timed charge. But who can argue with a dozen field goals, seven assists and five rebounds? Edwards is the NBA lottery pick in waiting but Lewis reminded scouts why the buzz around him continues to grow.
What were the biggest concerns?: Thank goodness Bama was so locked in on offense because at times it couldn’t have stopped the Bulldogs with a sixth defender on the floor. Every entry pass to the paint seemed perfectly timed and if UGA didn’t put it in right away, its rebounders were happy to help out, giving the home time a 24-11 advantage in second-chance points. Until going just 2-for-8 on field goals in overtime, Georgia shot better than 52 percent from the floor and never missed a free throw after halftime. Nine different Bulldogs scored a basket, and four starters were in double figures. Not only will that kind of defensive effort not cut it next week against SEC co-leaders Auburn and LSU, it will get the Tide blasted clear off the court.
What’s next?: The No. 11 Tigers will be primed for revenge Wednesday in Auburn Arena after the Tide ruined their perfect record last month. Tipoff on ESPN2 is at 6 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris