Alabama Loss Is Familiar Story

Stop me if you've heard this one. Alabama's basketball team has a long stretch of good play, a long stretch of terrible play, and the game comes down to the final few moments, Bama needing to make a play to win. Alabama loses.

That's how a team that was favored to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division plunges deeper and deeper into being one of the most under-achieving teams in Alabama basketball history. When the Crimson Tide let a big lead slip away and then suffer cruel defeat in Coleman Coliseum Saturday afternoon, even an NIT possibility was likely gone. And many Bama fans, particularly the hundreds failing to show up for games, are probably saying, "Thank goodness." This season can't get over soon enough.

The familiar story of Alabama basketball despair has to begin with the very end, a buzzer-beater putback by South Carolina forward Mike Holmes that gave the Gamecocks a 75-73 win. But that's only part of the disappointment of Saturday afternoon.

Alabama had as much as a 15-point lead in the first half. Alabama had a 10-point lead, 41-31, at halftime. Alabama had the ball with the score tied and less than a minute to play. No matter. The Gamecocks fought back from the 15-point deficit, then scored the first nine points of the second half to essentially erase the Bama advantage.

Any chance Alabama had came down to the final minute. Bama had the ball with 56 seconds to play and the scored tied at 73. The Tide did not even get a shot away. Point guard Anthony Brock tried to go down the middle of the lane and collided with a South Carolina defender, an offensive foul that gave the ball to the Gamecocks with 36 seconds to play. That meant the visitors could try one shot in the final seconds and, if it missed, perhaps have a chance for a putback. South Carolina followed the plan. The Gamecocks' outstanding guard, Devan Downey, drove left of the basket and put up a shot that missed. Alabama had put three big men into the lineup for the final defensive possession, but none of Bama's men were able to corral the rebound. Dominique Archie kept the ball alive with a tip that hung on the rim, and Mike Holmes tapped it off the rim and into the basket just before the clock hit 0:00.

Yes, it was offensive goal-tending, but this was not an officiating crew to depend on. The officials checked the replay, no doubt saw their error, but that is not reviewable. The only thing to be checked was whether the goal beat the buzzer, and it did.

That was not the only play that cost Alabama the game. Alabama had 21 turnovers and the Gamecocks scored 23 points off those miscues. Alabama committed 21 personal fouls and South Carolina shot 26 free throws, making 16. (Alabama hit its free throws, but didn't get many tries, making 12-15.)

With 9:33 Andrew Steele fouled the Gamecocks' Zam Fredrick who was shooting a three-point shot. Fredrick made three free throws to give South Carolina a 58-57 lead and it's likely no one in the arena expected Alabama to win. Bama did get a few more leads, but could not put the game away. There were five ties and five lead changes in the second half.

Alabama did a decent job on South Carolina's big weapons. Downey had 18 points, but he hit only 6-20 from the field, including only 1-6 on three-point shots. Fredrick had only nine points on 2-7 shooting, 1-4 on treys. Holmes had 12 points and 10 rebunds. Brandis Raley-Ross had 13 of South Carolina's 18 points from the bench.

Alabama got half of its scoring from the bench, 37 points. But that's because a couple of regular starters didn't start. Senario Hillman, who had 17 points, had been ill during the week and didn't practice a couple of days. Freshman JaMychal Green, who was injured in last weekend's loss at LSU, also missed a couple of days of practice. He had nine points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

Alabama was led by Alonzo Gee, who had 18 points. Mikhail Torrance had 12 points, none in the second half. Three starters, Demetrius Jemison, Justin Knox and Brock, had only two points each.

"We were just a play or two away," said Alabama Interim Coach Philip Pearson. "I told our guys that this wasn't going to be the last time we are in a situation like this. We have six or seven games left in the league and then the tournament. This won't be the last time we are in the situation and we look at the clock and there is 1:41 and the score is tied. We are going to keep working to get better at it."

Alabama fell to 13-11 overall and 3-7 in SEC play. South Carolina, the surprise leader in the SEC Eastern Division, improved to 18-5 overall and 7-3 in the league.

For the game, the Tide shot 45.9 per cent (28-61) from the floor compared to 41.5 per cent (27-65) for South Carolina. Alabama knocked down 45.5 per cent (5-11) from beyond the arc, while the Gamecocks made only 23.8 per cent (5-21).

Alabama will be at Florida Wednesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. central). The Tide returns home next Saturday, hosting Mississippi State at 2 p.m. CST.

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