On a day when Florida lost at UGA and Mississippi State is in a battle with Auburn, South Carolina escaped Alabama's upset big, winning 75-73 after Mike Holmes tipped in the rebound after Devan Downey missed his try at the game winner. If anyone out there is upset that we didn't lay the wood to the Tide, you need to get get with the program. The Tide brought it today, but we still escaped a potentially huge letdown with stellar second-half play. The game truly was a story of two halves; Bama dominated in the first as we struggled to score points, but we came out early in the second and made a run to close the gap. The last few minutes were back and forth, and luckily we came out on top. Downey led us with 18, matching Alonzo Gee's 18, which was the high for the Tide. The Tide's Senario Hilman also deserves credit for playing a great game, and Mike Holmes of course gets credit for winning the game for us and for keeping us in it with good post play in the first half.
From an analysis standpoint, we actually played a decent game today. We moved the ball around, got good looks, and played alright defensively in forcing 21 turnovers, most of them in the second half. The fast tempo of the game was in our favor. What kept Bama in the game was our horrible shooting in the first half combined with inspired offensive play by the Tide. We were only 24% from beyond the arc, far below our usual average. Even in the second half when we began to play better, we still couldn't make shots; some of the misses came when we got great, wide-open looks. I suppose that this sort of thing happens sometimes on the road, and we should be happy that we managed to pull out the win even though we didn't have our usual advantage from downtown. Luckily, Holmes and Dominique Archie were able to score some points inside to make up the difference. The only other problem of note was that we continued to give up easy points in transition. I guess you have to expect a bit of that when you take chances in a full-court press defense, but sometimes I think we could prevent some of those easy baskets by being more aware of what's going on around us.
Our win, combined with the loss by Florida and wins by Kentucky and Tennessee, puts us in a three-way tie with the Cats and Vols for first in the East. The Florida loss was big: we now control our destiny en route to the divisional crown, as we're now ahead of Florida and have remaining home games with the two teams that we're tied with. We're also now three wins away from the magic number 10 that we need to get into the NCAA tournement. As far as the NCAAs go, I really think we're good if we continue to win the games we're supposed to. The upcoming games with Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Kentucky will be tough, but if we can take care of business against teams like UGA, Vandy, and Arkansas, we should be able to get to 10. Next up is MSU; the Western Dawgs are a good team and a win in Starkville would be great. It's not a must-win game, but winning would certainly help our seeding. Let's hope we come out a little more fired up in that one that we did today, because MSU will make us pay if we don't.