Two statistics stood out as the Alabama men’s basketball team lost its final regular season game of the year at Georgia, 70-63. The most important was that the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Crimson Tide, 48-26, including an advantage of 19-8 in offensive boards. That led to Georgia having a 13-3 advantage in second chance points.
The second was free throw opportunities. Georgia made 26-32 (some of them late when Alabama was trying for the miracle finish when trailing in the final minutes). Bama was 11-26.
The Tide scored 53 points from the field to Georgia’s 44, and the Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers to Alabama’s 8, but the rebounds and free throws were too much to overcome.
Shannon Hale had an exceptional shooting game for Alabama with a game-high and season-high 25 points as he made 8-12 from the field, including 4-7 three-pointers.
Alabama fell to 17-13 overall and 8-10 in Southeastern Conference games. The Bulldogs improved to 17-12 overall, 10-8 in league play.
Alabama will begin play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday.
"When you get beat up on the boards like we got beat up tonight, you're going to have a hard time winning,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. “You're going to have to hit more threes than we did tonight and they beat us up on the boards pretty good. When you give up that many offensive rebounds it is going to be a hard time. But we had our chances. We're in the game and then Arthur (Edwards) goes down with the cramps and we turned the ball over a couple of times there at the worst times. It was another game where we're right there in the last seven or eight minutes of the game and just couldn't pull through."
With 7:53 left to play, Georgia used a 9-2 run to take a 58-52 lead. Still trailing, 60-54, with 2:30 on the clock, Alabama began fouling. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer J.J. Frazier sunk 10 consecutive free throws in those final moments.
The teams played a close first half, with Georgia leading 27-25 at the break. Junior forward Jimmie Taylor blocked five shots in the opening frame, but none in the second half.
The Bulldogs scored the first six points of the second half to lead 33-25, but the Tide answered with a 15-5 run over the next five minutes to take the lead, 40-38. Including the last five points of the Tide’s run, Hale scored 15 straight points before Georgia regained the lead for good.
Hale fouled out late in the game along with junior Michael Kessens. Senior Retin Obasohan added 15 points, and sophomore Riley Norris led the Tide with six rebounds. Obasohan recorded two steals to move into sole possession of eighth place in school history in the category.
Yante Maten scored 19 points for the Bulldogs, and Frazier finished with 17. Charles Mann led the Dogs with seven boards.
Alabama hit 21-53 from the field for 39.6 per cent, while Georgia was 20-53 (37.7 per cent). The Tide was good on 11-26 three-point shots (42.3 per cent), the Bulldogs 4-15 (26.7 per cent). Bama made 10-18 free throws (55.6 per cent), while Georgia’s 26-32 was 81.3 per cent.
The score was tied six times and there were nine lead changes.
The Tide finished Avery Johnson’s first season as head coach with a 17-13 record in the regular season. Johnson’s eight conference wins are the most by a first-year head coach since Wimp Sanderson recorded 10 in the 1980-81 season. Moreover, Johnson is just one win shy of matching Sanderson’s record for number of wins as a first year head coach at Alabama (18 in 1980-81).