No. 10 Alabama will continue its bid for Southeastern Conference perfection when it visits No. 18 Missouri on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide (15-4 overall, 10-0 SEC) defeated LSU 78-60 on Wednesday to remain unbeaten in league play. That was Alabama’s seventh double-digit victory over a conference opponent.
“I thought it was a quality win,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “We didn’t shoot that well on offense and we made too many turnovers. We have to find other ways to win. I thought we played good on defense.”
The Tigers (12-3, 5-3) defeated Kentucky 75-70 on Wednesday to improve to 7-1 at home in Columbia, Mo.
They remain one of the season’s biggest surprises after being picked 10th in the SEC preseason poll.
“I just think they have a passion for each other,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I think this is a team that really could care less who leads them in scoring, who does all that. I think they could care less about that, and they’ve gotten to a point where they’re able to challenge each other, and I think that’s where the biggest growth has come; they’re able to challenge each other where it’s not personal.”
Alabama routed LSU despite subpar shooting from guards John Petty Jr. (3-for-9) and Jaden Shackelford (7-for-16). They combined to make just 1-of-11 shots from three-point range.
“Shooting kinda comes and goes a little bit, but guys will get in the gym,” Oats said. “I don’t anticipate them going 1-for-11 combined again. They’ll fix that.”
The Crimson Tide also overcame foul trouble that limited Herbert Jones to 16 minutes against LSU. With Jones on the bench and Jordan Bruner sidelined by a knee injury, Alex Reese (13 points, four rebounds, two blocks) and Juwan Gary (12 points, seven rebounds, two steals) carried a bigger load in the front court.
Reese has scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds total in his last two games after scoring in double figures just twice all season.
“We’re missing Bruner, but the way Reese has been playing the last two games we’re not going to miss him as much,” Oats said.
The Tigers have made center Jeremiah Tilmon their offensive focal point in SEC play. But after he scored 54 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in his two games prior to Kentucky, Tilmon struggled against the Wildcats’ double teams.
Kentucky held him to eight points and five rebounds. Dru Smith picked up the scoring slack with 26 points, and Mitchell Smith came off the bench to grab 12 rebounds.
Dru Smith has averaged 17.7 points in his last six games.
“He’s been assertive offensively, and I think that’s what we need,” Martin said. “I didn’t understand why he wasn’t aggressive, but we needed him to be aggressive. It just happened to be 26 tonight, but he does a lot of other things. He gets in the paint, he makes plays to get other guys involved, he gets to the free-throw line. I’m happy he played well.”
–Field Level Media