Alabama earns fifth win over a ranked team by dominating TennesseeBy Matthew Speakman | 02/10/2018 8:28pm
Top-25 teams continue to bring out the best in Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (16-9, 7-5 SEC) defeated a red-hot No. 15 Tennessee (18-6. 6-6) team, 78-50, to get its fourth win over a ranked team at home and fifth overall. Tennessee entered the game on a six-game winning streak with nine wins in its last 10 games, and Alabama ran the Volunteers out of the gym.
Alabama continues to thrive when the best come to Tuscaloosa. It’s slowly becoming the team’s identity. No ranked team is safe when traveling to Coleman Coliseum.
“Honestly, I feel like versus (top-25 teams), we show up to play more,” freshman guard Collin Sexton said. “We have to come in every game ready to play. Today, we were ready to play.”
The win was Alabama’s largest margin of victory (28 points) against a top-15 team in school history.
The energy of a big game translated to the starts of the first and second half. Alabama opened up the game on a 9-2 run, then scored 13 points in the first three minutes and 21 minutes of the second half.
“This might be our best game at home with the intensity we had and the way we passed the ball,” freshman guard John Petty said.
Those runs were characterized by Alabama getting into the paint at will.
The Crimson Tide punished Tennessee inside. Tennessee had no answer for forward Donta Hall and Alabama’s slashing guards. Hall scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and also had eight dunks in the game. Sexton scored 16 points, while Petty had 14 points.
Alabama finished with a 50-18 advantage inside the paint. At one point, Alabama had 46 points in the paint, while Tennessee only had 44 points as a team.
“We didn’t want to settle for jumpers because we had not been shooting it well,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “We tried to play from the basket back out to the three-point line. Give our guards credit for penetrating and our bigs for finishing.”
The easy shots in the paint helped Alabama finish 32-of-56 (57 percent) from the field. On the flip side, Tennessee shot just 28 percent. In big games this season, Alabama’s defense seems to clamp down opponents.
The team held Tennessee to its lowest point total all year.
“They move at a high rate,” Johnson said. “We had to do a good job of staying with them on a lot of their flares and down screens and back picks. So, I thought we were there on arrival when they caught the ball, and we were in their space.”
Good defense turned into fast offense.
Tennessee allowed Alabama to get out and run. When Alabama dictates the tempo, it usually means good things. The fast pace allowed Alabama to get close to the rim often.
Sexton, who is usually the one pushing the tempo, loves when his team runs the floor.
“We were just running,” Sexton said. “…I feel like when we were running, we were at our best.”
Alabama will face LSU at home on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Alabama has been in this position before. Even though Alabama is 5-1 against ranked opponents, it is just 11-8 against unranked opponents.
Johnson is going to pull out all of the stops to make sure there isn’t a hangover against LSU.
“We failed a couple of times in this area,” Johnson said. “Since I’m a real, true psychologist and not a basketball coach, I’m going to go back and look through some of my old psychological journals and see what I can come up with.”