The Alabama Crimson Tide (15-8, 7-3) tried everything they could to give the game away in the final few minutes, but they hung on to a 60-57 win over the LSU Tigers (13-8, 4-6) to bounce back from their dismal performance on Wednesday night on the road against Auburn.
The Crimson Tide once again struggled from the field as they shot only 35% and made only 2-of-18 from three, but they showed a greater sense of urgency on the offensive end of the floor tonight than they had in the last few games. This was the first time since a January 16th win over Mississippi State that Alabama scored 60 points.
Alabama led by six at halftime and seemed to find some offensive rhythm at the end of the first half, but LSU switched to a 2-3 zone in the second and perplexed Alabama. It was actually a mistake by the Tigers that got Alabama flowing on offense in the second half. LSU started pressing, and it allowed Alabama to get easy looks at the basket that led to a basket or free throws.
Late in the game, however, Alabama struggled to break LSU’s press like they had earlier in the half. They started turning the ball over and taking rushed shots. They had opened up a double digit lead, but allowed LSU to crawl back all the way within one point with two minutes left to play.
At the same time, Tide center Moussa Gueye fouled out leaving the team very vulnerable in the paint against LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant, who they had struggled to stop all evening long. Inexplicably, LSU went away from O’Bryant on offense.
Down the stretch, all Alabama had to do to seal the game was hit free throws. In the final 1:15 of the game, the Crimson Tide went 4-of-10 from the charity stripe with Releford, Lacey, Cooper and Randolph all missing clutch free throws. For the game, Alabama was just 20-of-33 from the foul line and it was almost their undoing down the stretch.
With a 60-57 lead, LSU had a look to tie the game. Andre Stringer missed, but Alabama made sure to give the Bayou Bengals another opportunity as Andrew Steele threw the ball away. All LSU could manage was a three quarter court shot from Anthony Hickey that went begging as Alabama held on to the win.
It was a team effort tonight for the Crimson Tide as four players finished in double figures. Nick Jacobs led the way with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting. He also converted 7-of-8 attempts from the free throw line. Trevor Releford scored 12 with Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph chipping in with 10 points apiece.
Trevor Lacey had a tough shooting night as he was just 2-of-7 for 7 points, but he grabbed 7 rebounds and came up with a pair of steals.
Johnny O’Bryant was the best player on the court tonight for either team as he led all scorers with 22 points and 11 rebounds for LSU. Outside of O’Bryant, Alabama played strong defense as the Tigers shot only 37% from the floor. LSU’s leading scorer, Anthony Hickey, had only 8 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
With the win, Alabama moves into a tie for 3rd place in the downtrodden SEC. At 7-3, the Crimson Tide is tied in the standings with Ole Miss and just a game behind Kentucky for second place.
Alabama now heads to Athens on Tuesday night to take on a red-hot Georgia team that has won five in a row. It will be another important game as the Tide looks to continue working toward a first round bye in the SEC Tournament.