Alabama fell behind by 46-29 at halftime of Wednesday's basketball game against Notre Dame, then fought back to make it a one possession game 11 times in the second half. But Bama could never get closer than one point, and the Irish scored the final five points of the game.
Notre Dame, which had already lost two games within the past week, improved to 3-2, while Alabama lost its second home game of the year and fell to 4-2. Things don't get easier, either. "We don't have any cupcakes to nibble on," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said of the upcoming schedule. Alabama goes to Philadelphia Saturday to take on John Chaney's Temple Owls, a game that will begin at 4 p.m. CST and be televised by ESPN2.
The name of the game is shooting, and it came down to Notre Dame shooting much better than Alabama. Although the Crimson Tide had one more field goal than the Irish, Bama hit only six of 20 three-point shots (30 per cent), while Notre Dame was making 11 of 23 (47.8 per cent). Alabama's continuing struggles at the free throw line contributed greatly to the loss as Bama hit only 11 of 21, 52.4 per cent, while Notre Dame was 15 of 19, 78.9 per cent.
"I think we're a good foul shooting team, but we're having a tough time," Gottfried said. "Last year we were the best free throw shooting team in the (Southeastern) conference, and this year we're down towards the bottom."
Two Tide players were standouts. Senior forward Chuck Davis scored a career high 29 points, and it could easily have been a 30-point night except Davis hit only three of seven free throws. Freshman Alonzo Gee came off the bench to get four steals and 15 points, and Gottfried said Gee would get consideration for a starting job.
But starting wing forward Jean Felix scored zero points and starting wing guard Justin Jonus only six points before fouling out. And Jermareo Davidson, who has averaged double figures in points and rebounds as Bama's most improved player this year, had only six points and four rebounds in 31 minutes.
Guard Ronald Steele, who is playing with a sore back, went 40 minutes and had 12 points, but it came on only four of 13 shooting.
Freshman inside player Richard Hendrix scored only two points, but had seven rebounds and five blocked shots in only 18 minutes of play. Davidson had four blocks as Bama had 11 for the game.
But the real culprit was poor defense against a very aggressive Irish offense. Time-after-time in the first half the Tide allowed Notre Dame's Colin Falls to get open three-point shots, and Falls delivered. Falls, who averaged 9.3 points per game coming into the contest, had six three-point shots and 18 points in the first half and finished with 24 points.
Alabama trailed by 17 points at the half. When Steele hit a three-pointer with 8:42 to play in the second half, the Tide had outscored Notre Dame by 28-12 and cut the margin to one point, the Irish 58, Bama 57. It stayed close the rest of the way, including another one-point deficit at 69-68 with 3:19 to play, but the Irish were able to hold off Alabama efforts to take the lead.
The killing trip came when Notre Dame got the ball with 1:28 to play and leading by only a basket, 73-71. The Irish used 29 seconds and scored on a short jumper that put Bama down by four with under a minute to go.
Gottfried gave Notre Dame credit for getting the win, but said, "We've got to find a way to get better. We haven't been able to put it all together."
He added, "It will be difficult (at Temple Saturday), but our guys will be excited. I think our guys will respond and bounce back very well."
Alabama's next home game will be a week from Saturday (December 17) when the Tide hosts Georgia State.