Who gets the credit for Alabama's (17-14) second "come from behind" victory against the South Carolina Gamecocks after trailing by 18 points with just over 11 minutes remaining in the ballgame? Initially you have to credit Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant for keeping his team motivated to play with confidence and efficiency down the stretch outscoring the Gamecocks 32-9 from the 11:39 mark to stun South Carolina (15-16) for the second time in 8 days. Then there was Senior Guard Mikhail Torrance who scored 17 points on 5-11 shooting and Junior Forward Justin Knox who added 16 points on 5-9 accuracy. After shooting 41% (15-36) in the first half, South Carolina was held to 8-27 shooting for 29.6%. This was a tail of two halves as Alabama shot 50% (13-26) in the second half following a dismal 30% in the opening half. In the most significant stretch from 11:18 remaining to 9:21 Alabama scored 10 unanswered points before a 30-second timeout was called and by then the momentum had completely shifted and the game was on a complete reverse spiral for Head Coach Darrin Horn, who had no answer for Grant's confident team, as the Tide continued to roll, allowing only one South Carolina field goal in the final 11 minutes and 39 seconds, a three-pointer by Ramon Galloway with 1:17 to play, shortly after the Crimson Tide had established a 62-59 lead, to tie at 62-62, but the Cocks would only get a single free throw from Devan Downey who likely ends his college career with 21 points in a losing effort and no post season play. Downey would experience his first and only missed free throw (6-7) with 18 seconds leaving the score 64-63 in favor of Bama.
In the end, South Carolina just fell completely apart as a team and appeared like a herd of deer in spot lights, while the Tide never looked like a team trailing by as much as 18 points deep in the final half. South Carolina also led at the half 38-27. The loss would eventually taint a marvelous game on the boards by Lakeem Jackson who finished with 14 rebounds (10 offensive) to go with his 9 points, and efficient shooting by Ramon Galloway 3-4 from the field (2-2 from 3) and 6-8 from the line. And would watch Senior Guard Brandis Raley-Ross go scoreless (0-7) in 32 minutes on the floor. Junior Forward Sam Muldrow would finish with 13 points, all scored in the first half. Muldrow's 3 second half shot attempts would all come from the perimeter.
South Carolina will have all summer to wonder what could have been had they closed the game with less long jump shots and more interior play, even with the guards as they shot 70% (14-20) from the free throw line, but vacated the effort to penetrate and keep the pressure on the Crimson Tide. They will also want to question not packing the zone and forcing the Tide to complete the run with some perimeter play. Grant's two and three man half court schemes created passing lanes for cutters and isolation for players to penetrate the slow rotating defense of South Carolina during the comeback run. The Cocks had little gas down the stretch with the limited use of the bench in the ball game. Austin Steed played only one minute in the ball game.
So as the buzzer sounds, is it poor shooting, poor defense or great scoring and great defense. Is it poor coaching or great coaching? What we do know is that there is someone to congratulate and someone to criticize for this great Alabama victory and this disappointing loss by South Carolina.