The Alabama Crimson Tide faced an absolute must-win situation against the South Carolina Gamecocks this past weekend… and they pulled through in a 90-86 win, now they host Vandy.
By Matt Zemek
Kira Lewis was great. Javian Davis was great. Jaden Shackelford was good. The Tide were able to win without John Petty, which is a shot in the arm for this group heading into March. Now Alabama faces another must-win game against the Vanderbilt Commodores. A loss would fatally wound this resume, or at least put it in the intensive care unit. Without Petty, Alabama cannot let down its guard. The Crimson Tide need to retain the single-minded focus they displayed against South Carolina. Let’s see how that focus can be more precisely manifested against Vanderbilt:
1 – Defensive rebounding
Alabama gave up 13 offensive boards to South Carolina this past weekend. Not having Petty makes rebounding more of a challenge, but the larger point remains that Alabama has to get a commitment from every player on the glass. The Tide have to play with an “all for one” mentality to pick up their injured teammate as long as he can’t take the floor. If Alabama denies Vanderbilt extra possessions, the Commodores’ margin for error will shrink dramatically.
2 – Attack the basket
Alabama probably won’t earn the 47 free throw attempts it gained against South Carolina this past weekend. It is unrealistic to expect the Tide to accumulate 21 more free throw attempts than an opponent in a second consecutive game. Nevertheless, this is a lesson for the Tide to learn as they play their first game in March. Late-season basketball is a test of toughness. Maybe Alabama won’t get huge numbers of free throws, but the Tide have to force defenses to stop dribble penetration. They must force the officials to make calls on drives to the basket. They must force opponents to collapse into the paint so that kickouts for high-quality open threes are available.
Alabama shot 24 threes against South Carolina. That represents a good balance of attack-oriented basketball and the 3-point shooting Nate Oats wants. A team should shoot more than 30 threes in a game only when they are falling. Alabama’s shot selection was better against South Carolina, and it came from an attack-first approach.
3 – Javian Davis
With Petty out, Davis really answered the call against South Carolina with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and only one turnover in 31 minutes. If Alabama can get Davis to join Lewis and Shackelford as a three-headed monster, this team can make the NCAA Tournament.