Alabama Basketball: Tide outperforms Wichita State in Charleston

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 08: Avery Johnson the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide gives instructions to John Petty
ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 08: Avery Johnson the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide gives instructions to John Petty /

Alabama basketball did not get what it wanted or even what it needed in the Charleston Classic. It did get two, almost must-wins, after losing the opener to Northeastern.

The 2018 Charleston Classic tournament field included at least three teams who are likely resume builders this season. Alabama basketball lost to one of them, Northeastern, in its opening game. The other two, Purdue and Virginia Tech moved to the winners bracket, ending the Tide’s chances for an early tourney-building win.

Instead of the Boilermakers or the Hokies, the Crimson Tide beat Ball State on Friday and beat Wichita State, Sunday afternoon, 90-86. For Alabama basketball fans just getting up to speed on the 2018-19 season, the Shockers are in a major roster rebuild this season. Still, after the Tide failed to even compete in its opening game loss to Northeastern, the two wins were almost a must.

There was much to like in the Tide’s win over Wichita State. The Tide out-shot the Shockers 51 percent, to 47 percent. Outside the arc, the Tide hit 47 percent to 26 percent for the Shockers. Both teams were superb from the foul line, but Alabama basketball was better, 94 percent to 81 percent. The Shockers had a turnover advantage, making only seven to 12 for the Tide. Wichita State had a big edge in steals at 6-1, while the Tide won the glass 32-28.

The nine extra points the Tide tallied from the foul line made a big difference. Alex Reese was 9-for-10 at the line and Kira Lewis was 11-for-11. The sophomore and freshman also led the Tide in scoring – 19 points for Reese and 24 points for Lewis. Four other Crimson Tide players played key roles in the win. Herbert Jones and John Petty chipped in 13 points each and combined for 11 rebounds. Dazon Ingram had eight points, four rebounds and five assists. Kevin Mack added five points and four rebounds.

The Tide bigs were unproductive in a combined 34 minutes of play. Donta Hall made two free throws, missed his only shot, a dunk, and pulled in just one rebound. Galin Smith had six points and one rebound. The only other Tide player seeing action was Avery Johnson Jr, who added two rebounds and an assist in eight minutes of play.

The brightest of the Tide bright lights was 17-year-old, Kira Lewis. With 7:15 to go, the game was tied at 69-69. Lewis took over and scored 11 of the Tide’s next 21 points. In the same interval, Alex Reese scored six points while Donta Hall and Dazon Ingram added two points each as Alabama basketball sealed the win.

It may not have been a resume-building win, but it could be a roster-building win. Avery Johnson rarely relies on eight players for the majority of minutes. He has now done that in back-to-back games, both wins. The abbreviated player rotation is working.

Four guards and one big looks to be the most effective Tide lineup. Against Wichita State, that one big was often Alex Reese, who is more a wing player than an inside banger. Bigger, more physical opponents will not allow that lineup. But against smaller, quicker teams, the smaller lineup can allow the Tide to counter strong, perimeter shooting.

Next. Crimson Tide Holiday Gift Guide. dark

The 4-1 Crimson Tide needs Avery to get more consistency from Kevin Mack. Mack showed his talent with 20 points in the Ball State win. Also, Avery should look to better utilize Donta or Galin with a four-guard lineup. On Sunday, Hall was not involved on offense unless the Tide forced a feed to him.