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POSTGAME: Alabama 81, LSU 66

Tigers defense collapses in the second half, fall to 1-4 in conference

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Normally I wouldn’t feel too great about scoring 33 points in the first half, but that was an impressive feat considering Alabama’s level of defense. LSU also managed to hold the Crimson Tide to only 28 points in the first half, a far cry from how the last five games started out. It really looked like the guys, especially forwards, were figuring it out and how to function as an effective defense without Craig Victor’s inside presence. Granted, Alabama’s offense is nothing to brag about, it’s still a tremendous improvement. The communication and positive body language today was a very apparent improvement as well.

That was the first half. The second half brought about a familiar mental and defensive collapse that gave the Tide 53 points. 28 points in the first half, 53 in the second. I don’t know how you can let your defense be so out of control and unable to guard someone who played on your own team, but Johnny Jones sure figured that when Corban Collins scored 24 points. He made seven 3 pointers and every single one went uncontested. It’s so frustrating when you show that kind of improvement on defense in one half of the game, only to lay that egg in the other.

And it’s not just the defense, let me stress that. Yes, the offense struggled a good bit and didn’t shoot as well as they usually would, but once again LSU’s chronic turnover illness put them out of commission. 18 turnovers is a guaranteed loss every time. I understand just how good Alabama’s defense is, but you’ve got to know that and how to protect the ball. Several of those were unforced turnovers, and Bama only turned the ball over 10 times themselves. It hurts even more when you compare points off turnovers: 25-8.

On the bright side of things, Duop Reath looked like an absolute force out there. He might’ve fouled out, but he managed to finish with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Normally I’d say it’s the forward support that let him down, but that really wasn’t the case this afternoon. Aaron Epps and Wayde Sims, all things considered, played pretty well. Epps finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Yes, Sims didn’t shoot all that well going 2-8 from the field, but a lot of his off-the-ball presence really made a positive difference in the game, even if it was all for naught. His positioning and overall basketball IQ has improved very well over the season.

Antonio Blakeney also scored 11 points, but turnovers is where he and the other guards really let the team down today. Blakeney, Jalyn Patterson, and Brandon Sampson all combined for 10 of the team’s 18 turnovers. Alabama’s guards really knew how to pressure ours and force them into bad decisions and bad shots. It was a really solid defensive gameplan, that, unsurprisingly, LSU was unable to adjust to.

This brings the Tigers to a 9-7 record, 1-4 in conference play. This is LSU’s fifth loss in their last six games. It doesn’t get much easier, as they travel to Auburn to take on Bruce Pearl’s 11-6 (1-4) Tigers Wednesday night at 7:30pm on the SEC Network.