Alabama had its worst scoring day of the season by a wide margin as host Missouri pulled away in the second half for a lopsided 69-50 victory to conclude SEC play.
What did we learn today?: Missing the NIT is not only a real possibility, but might be a relief for a team that manages to get worse the longer it plays together. For the third time in the last four games, the Crimson Tide gave a completely unacceptable effort against a foe with inferior talent. Saturday in Columbia, it was the turnover bug biting hard, as Bama gave it up 12 times in the first half as it found itself on the wrong end of a 21-20 rock fight at the half. Alabama cut down on turnovers in the second half – as well as anything else that required expending effort. Take rebounding. Mizzou missed 31 field goals, yet got 15 of those misses back on the offensive glass. The Tigers won the overall rebounding battle 42-27. What’s more, Mizzou’s defensive pressure allowed Bama few clean looks and the Tide never seemed interested for long in putting in the extra work to create offensive openings. Alabama went 4-for-25 from 3-point range and barely cleared 30 percent shooting overall.
With the exception of graduate transfer Beetle Bolden, everyone else on the roster is eligible to return next season, but if everyone actually does that might be more of a negative than a positive. Nate Oats desperately needs to not only upgrade the talent level in Tuscaloosa but shake up the chemistry as well. This same core group quit on Avery Johnson at the end of last season, and (with the exception of a dead cat bounce game against South Carolina) it quit over the last two weeks once it became apparent the NCAA tournament was out of reach, getting swept by a trio of teams with a combined record of 42-50. Frankly at this point you have to worry about whether the players forced to redshirt this year are having their psyches poisoned by their teammates. Undoubtedly some players will be moving on this offseason, and frankly a coaching staff shakeup isn’t out of the question. Even with the injuries and lopsided roster construction, this team had the ability to achieve more in a weak year for the conference.
What were the biggest concerns?: The second-highest scoring team in America suddenly has a dearth of players who can put ball in basket. Herbert Jones and John Petty at least were excused absences from the score sheet, with Jones still playing one-handed thanks to a broken wrist and Petty missing his shooting touch in his first game back from a hyperextended elbow that isn’t at 100 percent. No such excuses are available for the Tide bench, which got outscored 40-5 by their Mizzou counterparts. Kira Lewis, Jaden Shackelford and Galin Smith combined for 14 field goals, the only ones Alabama got. Lewis led Bama with 18 points but also was guilty of seven of the team’s 18 turnovers.
What was the best part of the game?: Hopefully Smith got the best seat on the team plane because he was the only one in a crimson uniform that truly gave a maximum effort. His 10 points were punctuated by a couple of rim-shaking dunks and he also added four rebounds. That’s not a great total from a newly-minted starting center, but given his athletic limitations it counts as an honest day’s effort. If a few of his teammates took coaching as well as he did, Bama would be in a far better place.
Who was the star?: No one managed even an average player efficiency rating, but Shackelford was the least-below average. The freshman guard scored 13 points on 3-for-8 3-point shooting and his five rebounds put him in a three-way tie for the team lead.
What’s next?: Alabama travels to Nashville to check into its second home, the 8-9 matchup at the conference tournament. The ninth-seeded Tide takes the floor Thursday versus Tennessee at noon Central on the SEC Network.
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