It was a good day in Tuscaloosa -- and Las Vegas, for some people. Missouri was struggling in SEC basketball play before it lost two players to suspension. Alabama was coming off a hard-fought road win Starkville. Such was the preamble for an 80-71 Tide win over Missouri Saturday before a sold-out Coleman Coliseum crowd announced at 15,383.
Bama placed five men in double figures en route to its second straight Southeastern Conference win, but didn’t close the game with authority, allowing a second half 24-point lead to dwindle to the final 9-point margin. The Tide had been favored by 10.
“Terrific effort by our guys today,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. “We were fortunate to build a pretty sizable lead. I’m not focused as much on how we lost the lead. We had some walk-ons in there, and we wanted to get them some minutes, because they work hard on our scout team.
“We got the ball there in the end, and guys didn’t make the extra pass. We had a couple of teachable moments. That lets me continue to try to keep them focused. As I told them in practice, sometimes they want to be the Washington Generals (the decades-long whipping boys of the famed Harlem Globetrotters). The problem is, they didn’t know who the Washington Generals are.”
Added sophomore forward Riley Norris: “After the win at Mississippi State, we got a little momentum. I’m just glad we got the ‘w’ .”
Saturday marked Alabama’s first time to win back-back-SEC games this season.
Senior Retin Obasohan noted, “It does feel good to win two in a row, but at the same time, we want to look at every game by itself.”
where Missouri is with their program. I’m trying to coach these guys into a more sustainable effort. We probably played 32 good minutes, while normally we probably play 22.”
Norris led the Tide with 18 points, while Obasohan had 16. Justin Coleman scored 12, and Jimmie Taylor and Arthur Edwards each chipped in 11. Missouri’s Kevin Puryear led all scorers with 22 points. Norris and Edwards each shot 3-8 (40 per cent) from behind the arc.
Taylor scored the Tide’s first three points in a first half that featured two ties and but one lead change. Bama led by as many as 14 points at the 1:47 mark when Mike Kessens converted an old fashioned 3-point play. At the half, Bama was up 40-28, aided by a 13-1 run. A 4-1 Tiger advantage quickly became a 10-4 Tide lead when Edwards was fouled on a 3-point shot and made 2-of-3 at the line with 16:48 left in the half. Kessens sprained a knee in Starkville but was cleared to play. Junior Shannon Hale re-injured a foot at South Carolina, and dressed but did not see action. Johnson said Hale was cleared for 15 minutes of action, but the coach decided to hold him out.
In the final 20 minutes, Missouri outscored the Crimson Tide by a 43-40 tally, due in part to late substitutions by Johnson. The Tide stretched its lead to 24 on a Coleman 3-pointer with 9:28 left. Coleman led all passers with five assists. The Tide had a positive ratio with 14 assists, 13 turnovers.
Missouri Coach Kim Anderson said, “We were playing short-handed. I thought we battled them. When it got down to it, the rebounding was a major factor, along with the second-chance points (21-10, Tide).
“Obasohan really impressed me. He’s definitely improved.”
Hall and Taylor each had four blocked shots. Alabama won the battle of the boards, 36-30, and is now 7-1 in games where it out-rebounds the opposition. Obasohan had seven boards, while freshman Donta Hall grabbed six. Missouri was without suspended players Jakeenan Grand and Russell Woods. The Tide now holds a 7-3 lead all time in its series with Missouri. Missouri dropped to 8-15, 1-9.
Bama (13-9, 4-6 SEC) will host a tough Texas A&M squad Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST. The SEC Network will televise, and tickets remain. The Aggies entered play Saturday tied atop the league standings with LSU at 7-2, and sported an overall 18-4 mark, but lost a tough home game to South Carolina – A&M’s second consecutive setback. They are considered a lock for an NCAA bid.
Johnson said, “We’re going to go in there like a clean sheet of paper, like we’d never seen them before. They’re an outstanding team, and yes, (former Aggie Avery Johnson Jr.) will give us some help (with scouting).”