A week ago Alabama's basketball team was one of the nation's success stories with an 11-4 record, including a 3-1 Southeastern Conference mark. Bama, rebuilding after having lost four starters from last season, was receiving votes in the national polls. But after three straight losses the Bama record has dipped to 11-7 overall and 3-4 in SEC play.
And the outlook is not encouraging. Alabama's next two games are both on the road against nationally-ranked teams. The Crimson Tide will be at South Carolina Wednesday and then at Kentucky the following Tuesday. Bama returns home against Tennessee on February 14.
Earlier this year Alabama was handed a 70-66 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge when the Bengal Tigers hit 23 of 36 foul shots while Bama was making only 6 of 9. Alabama probably didn't expect the same problem in Tuscaloosa, but with the Tide, particularly the big men, hacking away, LSU went to the charity stripe 26 times to Alabama's 11. Moreover, it would appear that LSU practices foul shooting much more than does Bama because the Tigers connected on 24, a sizzling 92.3 per cent, while Alabama was good on only six, a chilly 54.5 per cent.
Head Coach Mark Gottfried said, "Our defense was good enough to win." LSU hit only 16 of 49 field goal attempts, a very poor 32.7 per cent. The Tigers made only 4 of 15 three-point shots, 26.7 per cent. But Alabama wasn't lighting it up on offense. The Tide made 21 of 55 shots, 38.2 per cent, including 6 of 21 trey tries, 28.6 per cent. Still, Bama out-scored LSU by 12 points from the field.
The Tide is short-handed because of injuries, and the inopportune fouls by Tide players made it very difficult. Chuck Davis, Bama's third-leading scorer, played only 16 minutes and had only four points and six rebounds. Jermareo Davidson, Alabama's other inside starter, was able to play 33 minutes despite foul trouble in the second half, but had only five points and seven rebounds.
It should have been no secret to Alabama that the most dangerous Tigers are Jaime Lloreda and Brandon Bass, but knowing it and being able to do something about it are two different things. Bass had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Lloreda 14 points and 11 rebounds. Antonio Hudson, who probably barely makes the scouting report, had 10 points, including an unguarded three-pointer with 1:53 to play that erased a 48-47 Alabama lead and gave the Tigers the lead for the rest of the game.
Kennedy Winston led the Tide offensively, making 9 of 18 field goals and 3 of 6 three-point shots in scoring 23 points. Antoine Pettway had 12 points, but hit only 4 of 13 shots, including only 2 of 8 behind the three-point line. No other Tider had more than five points.
Earnest Shelton was a surprise participant for Alabama. The junior guard, who suffered a knee injury against Georgia January 21, was expected to be out about another week, but doctors gave him the go-ahead if he felt like playing, and, of course, he wanted to play. But he was ineffective in his five minutes, missing the only two shots he took and limited on defense. Gottfried indicated after the game that after watching Shelton play that the coach thinks he's probably still not ready. Bama is also limited by Winston having soreness in his knee that limits his practice time.
LSU had a 40-31 advantage on the boards and outscored Bama 11-3 on second chance points. But the Tide had more points in the paint, 22-16, and off turnovers, 15 off LSU's 15 turnovers to the Tigers getting 8 points off the Tide's 16 turnovers. And Alabama had six fast break points, LSU four.
Although LSU led almost the entire game, including building a 28-22 halftime lead, the biggest lead in the game was only seven points, in the final 10 seconds of the contest.
Gottfried said, "We've got to get better at everything."