The first five minutes of this game reminded me of the last season Mike Shula coached our football team. I would have gone to sleep if it had not been 6:15 at night and I would have gone for a long walk if I had not already exercised pretty hard at lunch time. Mrs. Alias and I watched another recorded program instead while I listened to Chris Stewart calling the game through my earphones. As soon as I saw the bump and slap fest the officials were allowing I was sure our guys would wilt under the pressure like they have in every other one of these games this year. I was wr- wrrrrr- wrrrrrr- . . . I was not correct.
Okay, so USC is not a very good team. Tonight they did not shoot very well outside the arc and even worse from the free throw line. Those misses gave Bama a chance and they rebounded better than we have pretty much all season. Tonight Alabama withstood the defensive pressure and the offensive runs that have doomed them throughout conference play. They could have quit but they never did. Kudos to Coach Grant for teaching our young people how to do the right things because they are the right things to do. Even bigger kudos to our players for behaving like responsible adults and doing the right things when it would have been so much easier to have called it in for the balance of the season.
I still do not understand whatever it is that passes for SEC officiating. Both teams got away with hacks, shoves, pulls and grabs up and down the court and underneath the basket. Both teams were whistled at odd times for behavior that was ignored throughout the game. The mystery to me tonight was location of that perpetually moving line of demarcation between acceptable and unacceptable contact. The fact that Alabama attempted more free throws than USC suggests that we enjoyed a bigger benefit, but 8 of those extra attempts probably came while the Cocks were intentionally fouling us as the clock ran down. Most of the game the players had to be asking "What's a guy gotta do to get a foul called on him," and many of the whistled fouls involved much less egregious contact that the hacks and shoves that were not called. One of the plays actually whistled as a foul was against Hines when he got his hand on a rebounded ball that was jerked away by a Carolina player. Hines never touched the guy but he got whistled for a foul when his body jerked toward the moving ball just to avoid being dismembered.
While it's always sad for the home team to lose on senior night, it was good to see our young men finally be rewarded for all their hard work and for trusting in their coaches. This has been a disappointing season for Bama Basketball fans, but the things we have seen on the court spark optimism in all of us who have followed the program for any appreciable period.
I'll see you all in Coleman Coliseum Saturday afternoon.