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Alabama 90, South Carolina 86: A triple scoring threat enough to pluck Gamecocks

Alabama used a rare advantage on the glass and 47 free throw attempts to power past South Carolina 90-86 Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.

What did we learn today?: For at least one night, Bama handled the loss of John Petty better than it ever did when Herbert Jones was out of commission. Petty was missed not only for his raw numbers (15 points and 6.6 rebounds per game), but for his underrated defense and the spaces he opened up for other scorers because opponents had to worry about his shooting touch. But Bama went to a bigger lineup in his absence, worked through some awkwardness to attack the paint consistently and exploited the Gamecocks’ foul-prone defensive style. Three-point shooting (9-for-24) was a bit lighter than usual, but the Tide was able to compensate. And after perhaps its worst game of the season Wednesday at Mississippi State, the frontcourt responded well, particularly on the glass. Javian Davis and Alex Reese had 10 rebounds each and Jones added nine as the Tide outrebounded South Carolina 44-39.

What was the best part of the game?: With Petty missing, Kira Lewis and Jaden Shackelford knew USC’s defense would be all over them, but they still delivered, combining with Davis to score 70 percent of the Tide’s points. Lewis had 25 points and six assists, while Shackelford added 18 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. It’s the fourth time Lewis has cracked the 20-point barrier in the last seven games, while Shackelford has exceeded his season average (14.9 points) in six consecutive contests.

Who was the star?: Davis’ 20th point to set a career scoring high came fittingly enough at the foul line, where he went 11-for-15. He notched his first double-double and only committed one foul in 31 minutes. Davis hadn’t been this dominant in a game since November, and doing it against the always-physical Gamecocks is a far sight more impressive than rolling up 19 points on Florida Atlantic.

What were the biggest concerns?: The Crimson Tide arrived for the opening tipoff in name only. Bama is capable of really hot starts and really terrible ones, and Saturday was another clunker. USC opened on a 12-1 run in the opening five minutes. Even as the Tide clawed its way back to a two-point halftime deficit, the offense was never running very smoothly, with just two assists on 34.4 percent shooting in the first half. For the first 25-plus minutes, Lewis, Davis and Shackelford were the only Alabama players to make a field goal.

What’s next?: Senior night for Beetle Bolden comes Tuesday against Vanderbilt. Tipoff from Tuscaloosa is at 7:30 p.m. Central on the SEC Network.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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