LSU's inability to guard Alabama's surge toward the basket was the theme of the day as the Crimson Tide notched 30 points in the paint.
"The story of the game was our inability of our one's and two's to stop dribble penetration," said LSU head coach John Brady. "That was the key to game. Our one's and two's can't guard theirs. That is the game."
Playing without starting forward Jaime Lloreda, would was suspended for a
flagrant foul in the Tigers' 70-53 loss to the Florida Gators on Tuesday, LSU jumped out to an early 5-0 lead. However, a basket by Kenny Walker ignited a 14-2 Alabama run. Erwin Dudley's basket during that run giving the Crimson Tide an 8-7 lead. Alabama would never relinquish the lead the rest of the game.
Brad Bridgewater, subbing for Lloreda, scored 12 points and had six rebounds.
"Brad tried hard," Brady said after the game. "He played well."
Bridgewater said when Lloreda was suspended, he was ready to step in for the 6-9 junior from Panama.
"I'm always willing to do what I have to do to help the team," Bridgewater
said after the game. "I'm going to give 100 percent every time."
Senior forward Ronald Dupree agreed with Brady's assessment after the game.
"We didn't loose anything inside with Jaime not being there," Dupree said. "Brad has been playing well."
The Tigers once again struggled to score baskets early as they had droughts of 4:12 and 4:14 without scoring points. However, it was the team's inability to consistently defend Alabama's backcourt throughout the game that Brady said was the difference.
"I thought our offense was fine," Brady said. "We had ten turnovers in the first half, but those were all our fault. They didn't do anything to make us turn the ball over. In the second half we settled down offensively, and I thought we ran pretty good offense.
"We don't shoot the ball as well as I like, but if you know anything about the game, it's the quality of the shot. It has nothing to do with whether the ball goes in or not if you're trying to construct some positive offense."
The Tiger offense caught fire with 4:01 left in the first half when LSU went on a 10-4 run and head into the locker room trailing 34-28.
Opening the second half leading by six, Alabama pushed the lead to 13 putting together a 13-4 run in which Williams scored eight of the Tide's points in the run.
Williams said after the game he took it upon himself to step up offensively and carry his fellow teammates.
"In the past I didn't think I needed to force up any shots," Williams said. "In order for us to win the game, I figured I had to play good. We weren't shooting a good percentage so we needed to take our open shots and cut down on turnovers."
Gottfried was also pleased with Williams' performance.
"Mo Williams, I thought, stepped up and made some big-time plays," Gottfried said. "I was really proud of him. He has started to play much more aggressively."
Over the past three weeks, the Tide has fallen on hard times. Once ranked No. 1 in the nation, Alabama has slumped to No. 23 in the Associated Press poll and has been on the verge of slipping out altogether. The Tide players, according to Gottfried, have put in extra practice time in recent days.
Williams credited the two-a-day workouts, including a 5:45 am practice last week, with helping him and his teammates concentrate on basketball.
"It made us more focused, practicing that early in the morning," Williams said. "There is not much time in the day for a social life when you are practicing that early in the morning, going to class, then practicing again in the afternoon. All you have time for is basketball, class, and sleep."
Gottfried said he was pleased with his team's aggressiveness, both offensively and defensively, and points to his team's ability to refocus as a major factor in the contest.
"I really liked how they (Alabama) came out and responded," Gottfired said. "I thought they came out and played really hard. What you've got with our group of guys, and I think that the people that know our team know our team know, that this is a great group of people.
"I think this week we have had a lot of practice time. I think they came out and executed what we wanted to do offensively. We are still missing shots, but we got good looks, better looks. We just need to keep getting better, but I like how we responded."
Halfway through the second half, Brady inserted sophomore guard Xavier Whipple into the lineup and he, along with freshman Darrel Mitchell, took over the reigns of the Tigers' backcourt in hopes of trying to contain Alabama's offense.
"Mitchell and Whipple together in the back court played well," Brady said. "They were able to limit their (Alabama) dribble penetration."
Brady pointed to competitiveness as the key to the Tigers inability to stop dribble penetration.
"That's just wanting to play hard and be competitive," Brady said. "My team's have never done this and we have seniors who are doing it now."
Whipple's effectiveness on the defensive end of the court could lead to more playing time.
"Whipple did it tonight," Brady said. "We just might have to go with it."
Whipple's possible extended playing time would be at the expense of senior point guard Torris Bright. After starting the season on fire, leading the conference in assist/turnover ratio, Bright has struggled four of the last five games for the Tigers.
Against the Tide Saturday, Bright had 11 points with two turnovers to go along with three assists.
A frustrated Dupree said the Tigers have no excuse for their recent struggles. On his team's 1-6 Southeastern Conference start, the worst since the 1965-66 season in which the Tigers started off 0-7, Dupree had no answers.
"I didn't ever think this (1-6 start) could happen," Dupree said. "There is no excuse. We have no scholarship limitations, a good core group of seniors, and we added Jaime (Lloreda). It's an individual thing. If your not going to shoot the ball well, you have at least go to defend.
"If you're struggling offensively, you have to turn to something to get started. That competitive spirit fades when your struggling offensively."