Alabama vanquished a young, scrappy LSU team to hold serve in Coleman Coliseum and to earn first place in the SEC standings with a 5-1 record. LSU did not start out like a team on a three game losing streak. They took a brief early lead and seemed to confound the Tide's offense. The contest was much closer for the first 25 minutes that the 70-46 final score indicates. (Here is a box score.) Bama's rest week and maturity appeared to be the biggest difference makers by the mid-way point of the second half.
Much like Alabama, LSU's defense was its strength tonight. They held Alabama to 30 first-half points and constantly harassed their shooters across their defensive court. Bama hit only two of its twelve shots from outside the arc, but superior experience in the lane proved the big difference in the game as the Tide owned the boards and outscored the Tigers in the paint.
DJC should have more salient points to add, but in many ways the best part of this game is that Alabama won a game where Ted Valentine was the head official. All the zebras laid off their whistles until the first technical fouls were called in the second half. They seemed to tighten their grip on the game at that point to try to keep the players anger from boiling over. They could have accomplished that task more quickly if they had called a second technical foul on LSU's White for running his mouth and slinging elbows. Instead White fouled out with about 4 minutes to go, but Valentine and Company took about ten minutes to waive off the stupid second technical they called on Bama's Green who appeared to be doing no more than extricate himself from White's aggression for about the 6th time of the game.
Bama's pressure eventually wore down the visiting Tigers and allowed them to stretch a hefty lead that got as high as 27 points before Coach Grant started emptying his bench to reward the kids who practice hard every day but seldom see the court. The young visitors appeared to be both physically and mentally worn down mid way through the second half, and two or three of their emotional players appeared to retaliate after having lost their cool.
LSU appears to be at about the same point Alabama was last year and I suspect their young team will surprise a team or two before the season is over and will fare much better next season. Coach Grant won tonight's coaching duel by reinstituting the press and by keeping the pressure on when he saw the officials were going to call a loose game - at least for the first half.
Andrew Steele came off the bench to score seven points during a crucial stretch after LSU had cut the Tide's lead down to one. He also had two rebounds and an assist. Perhaps Coach Grant is correct; Steele is a physically and mentally tough kid who possesses a very high basketball IQ.
JaMychal Greene led all scorers with 20 points while Tony Mitchell tossed in 14 and Chris Hines 10. LSU was led by Andre Stinger with 10 points in spite of being harassed by the Bama Student Section every time he touched the ball. Stringer is a gritty player who hit two threes and was always looking for a way to get to the basket. Malcom White blocked six shots for LSU, but the constant bumping and shoving for position underneath the basket seemed to rattle him. He got away with all but one of his temper tantrums tonight. I suspect he will find a way to keep his emotions in check and to be a more potent offensive weapon when his team hosts our Tide in a few weeks.
Everybody needs to show up in Coleman Coliseum next Tuesday. Rick $tan$field brings his entire payroll to town and his Bulldogs are playing much better now and will be coming off a win over Florida. M$U fans fill their own gym and at least 5,000 of them will be coming to Tuscaloosa looking for tickets. Don't sell them one of yours. Please use your own ticket and come support your team. They are playing their guts out and deserve all the support we can give them.