Undermanned Alabama Overcomes Adversity to Beat South Carolina
This time, Alabama didn’t need a last-second shot for a chance at a win against South Carolina. It took care of that ahead of time.
Two consecutive losses in the series on a missed final possession 3-pointer ended Tuesday night in the Crimson Tide’s 59-51 victory at Coleman Coliseum.
Still, it was an uphill battle for Alabama (17-11, 7-8 Southeastern Conference) from the start, mostly because of injuries.
In addition to Ricky Tarrant, who missed his eighth straight game due to a lower right leg injury, sophomore forward Michael Kessens was ruled out with a deep bone bruise in his left knee just minutes ahead of the opening tipoff. Then during the game, forward Shannon Hale injured his foot and did not return after halftime.
Forward Jimmie Taylor also sat out a large portion due to foul trouble.
"There were a lot of different adversities in the game tonight,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.” But I really felt like our guys showed great maturity, great poise, a great character win from a standpoint of coming off a disappointing defeat in our last game, they were able to regroup. Sometimes for athletes, especially collegiate athletes, all you need to do is get back on the court and compete again. I think our guys enjoyed that process tonight.”
But Alabama, which also came into the game on a two-game home losing streak after its most recent loss coming against Georgia last Saturday, did not regroup immediately Tuesday. The Crimson Tide trailed for the entirety of the first half, falling behind by as many as seven points, before climbing out of the deficit to tie South Carolina (13-14, 4-11 SEC) at 22-22 in the final minute heading into halftime.
Though forced to play with a smaller lineup in the second half due to the lack of player availability, Alabama took its first lead of the game at 33-31 on Rodney Cooper’s putback dunk with 15:07 remaining. South Carolina tied it at 46 with seven minutes to play, but the Crimson Tide failed to ever trail again after taking its initial lead.
"This is a team right here that no matter what happens, no matter what's going on through adversity or anything, we're going to fight," senior guard Levi Randolph said. "We always feel comfortable with the guys that we have ready to play."
Down to just six players who receive regular minutes in the rotation after Kessens and Hale’s injuries, Randolph, Cooper, Retin Obasohan and Riley Norris were forced to play the entire second half.
After the game, Grant said the timetable for the two battered players are still to be determined. Grant has previously said Tarrant is out indefinitely.
"I think this team just loves playing with each other," Grant said on the team's response to injuries. "We got a great group of guys, they’re going to battle out no matter what comes at them. Obviously, we’ve had ups and downs all season with either tough wins or tough losses or injuries or what it may be.
"So you grow a little resiliency, I guess. And I think our guys had that."
Randolph finished with a team-high 17 points, while Obasohan, who has thrived as Tarrant’s replacement in the lineup, added 15 points. Cooper, who did not score in the first half, ended the game with 11 points.
Capitalizing off Alabama’s small lineup, the Gamecocks outrebounded the Crimson Tide 36-26, including 17-6 offensively. Forward Leonias Chatkevicius scored a career-high 18 points with nine rebounds to lead South Carolina.
Alabama hits the road for its second-to-last away game of the regular season against Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Crimson Tide fell 76-68 at home against the Commodores on Feb. 14.