What We Learned: Alabama handles South Carolina in Tuscaloosa

In Features by Philip Williams

Alabama snapped its two-game losing streak with a 76-62 win over South Carolina on Tuesday at Coleman Coliseum.

Here are some thoughts on what we learned from the game.

Alabama can win without a big scoring night from Sexton

Collin Sexton made only 2 of his 8 shot attempts while playing only 22 minutes against the Gamecocks. Sexton, who picked up two fouls in the game’s first six minutes, sat for large portions of both halves.

Had Alabama (10-6) ever started to relinquish their lead, Avery Johnson likely would have been forced to play his star freshman more. Johnson had to be pleased that it wasn’t necessary to run all of the offense through Sexton though as the Tide led by five points or more for most of the night even without him.

Instead, Alabama had four other players—John Petty, Donta Hall, Daniel Giddens and Avery Johnson Jr.–in double figures and got scoring contributions from all nine players who played significant minutes.

At times this season, Alabama’s offense has started to stall when it has relied too heavily on isolation plays for Sexton.

On Tuesday night though, the Crimson Tide got some traditional post buckets, step-throughs and jump hooks, from Giddens, Hall and even reserve Galin Smith. They got spot up threes from Petty and Johnson Jr. They got transition dunks and layups from almost everyone.

In short, Alabama had one of their best offensive nights in a while because each one of their players stayed in their lane and worked as a team.

It will be interesting to see what dividends this development produces in the Tide’s next few games.

Wesley Myers creates some offense

South Carolina lost almost all of their scoring production from last season’s Final Four run.

Unfortunately, those NBA-bound players were also guards/wings, and the Gamecocks did not have clear replacements ready.

It’s clear when watching South Carolina that they need some creators on offense. Of course the Gamecocks want to run most of their offense through their best player, Chris Silva, but when it gets late in the shot clock, every team needs someone that can create a good look.

Wesley Myers showed flashes of being that player on Tuesday night. Against a stout defense like Alabama’s, Myers scored 15 points on 4 of 9 shooting.

A few of the shots that the graduate transfer made were difficult in nature. He made two 3-pointers in the face of Tide defenders and made a 10-foot runner after driving by the Alabama guards.

Even when Myers didn’t make his shots, he still managed to get to the free-throw line, making 5 of his 6 attempts.

In order for South Carolina to stay out of the SEC cellar, they will need Myers or possibly Hassani Gravett to continue to improve as creative shot-makers.

John Petty is essential to Alabama’s success

In Alabama’s two SEC road losses, John Petty shot 2 of 14 from the field.

In the two SEC home wins, Petty shot 11 of 18 from the field.

See the correlation?

It’s not hard to figure out that Sexton is the Tide’s most talented player, but their overall success will rest largely on the production of its other heralded freshman. I think Avery Johnson knows this, and tried to get Petty’s attention by not starting him for the first time this season.

It worked.

Petty stretches the floor with the threat of his perimeter shooting each night, but on Tuesday, he proved he can provide more for the Tide. He drove to the bucket multiple times for tough running layups and rebounded better than he has all season.

Usually when Petty hits a few shots early, you can expect some heat-check 3-pointers soon thereafter.

On Tuesday night though, Petty reigned in his shot selection and both he and Alabama were better for it.

At this point, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that as Petty goes, so goes Alabama.

I’m a librarian and junior high boys basketball coach. My obsession with SEC basketball has grown so ludicrous that I won’t take another varsity hoops job because I’d miss almost all of conference play. I cover general SEC for Southeast Hoops.