The Alabama Crimson Tide lost a very bubbly game to Mississippi State. Now they play another SEC bubble team, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
By Matt Zemek
There is never a good time for an injury, but some times are certainly worse than others, and Alabama has been saddled with the immense misfortune of losing key role player John Petty, a workhorse veteran who provides a lot of cohesion and toughness for this roster. He went down with a very painful injury this past Tuesday against Mississippi State.
New information might have surfaced by the time you read this article, but at the time this article was originally written, no news has emerged on Petty’s status for this game. You know what they say about uncertain situations: Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Alabama, which has been ravaged by injuries throughout this season and has rarely had a fully healthy eight-man rotation, can only make use of what it will have on Saturday. The Crimson Tide have to find a way to win another hugely critical bubble game. Dropping one bubble battle to MSU was bad enough; the Tide will dig an even bigger hole if they lose to the Gamecocks.
1 – Stars gotta shine
Assuming John Petty won’t play, where else can Alabama plant its flag and show that it can still be formidable? It starts with the stars. Kira Lewis and Jalen Shackelford have to be great in this game if Petty isn’t on the floor. There are no guarantees, but Alabama is likely to be a weaker team without Petty. Alabama’s strengths have to be extremely strong, not merely moderately good, for the Tide to win a bubble game without Petty. Lewis and Shackelford have to minimize Alabama’s weaknesses in this game, and it seems hard to argue around that claim.
2 – Defensive rebounding
This isn’t just a John Petty-related game key; South Carolina has been soft on defense in recent games, allowing 86 to LSU in regulation and 90 to Georgia in overtime. When an opponent is scoring well, it is vital to not give that opponent any additional possessions and scoring chances. If Alabama can turn South Carolina into a “one and done” team – one shot per possession – the Tide’s chances of winning this game will improve markedly.
3 – Desperation
In certain situations, desperation is pathetic or sad, as in the final throes of a flailing and failing presidential campaign which has run out of ideas. In sports, though, desperation doesn’t have that negative connotation. In sports, desperation often refers to total effort and sacrifice, doing whatever it takes to win in a high-stakes moment such as Game 7 of an NHL playoff series. Alabama needs to play with “Game 7” desperation here, even if John Petty plays. If Petty doesn’t play, of course, every member of the Crimson Tide will have to work that much harder and make sure the team empties the fuel tank against South Carolina. If Alabama displays that level of hunger, it can overcome its shortcomings and its injuries.