It was a tough weekend in the state as both Alabama and Auburn fell on the road to unranked teams. Granted, Alabama’s loss was to Kentucky in Rupp Arena and Auburn’s loss was to a defending Final Four team – but both Kentucky and South Carolina have been struggling hard this season compared to last year. However, they were able to turn things around with wins over the top two teams from the state.
In one good basketball bit of news, UAB did defeat Southern Miss to improve to 17 wins on the season, tied with Alabama. Also, despite Auburn’s loss, they still hold a two game lead in the SEC standings over second place (technically three since they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee) and Alabama is still tied for third after Missouri and Florida both lost this weekend too.
With all that said though, here are the top five most disheartening things that fans of in-state college basketball witness this past weekend during those two abysmal games.
1 – Anfernee McLemore’s injury
Auburn center Anfernee McLemore was the leading blocker for not only Auburn but the entire league at 2.7 per game. McLemore was also one of the top rebounders on the roster and one of the only tall palyers left standing. With Wiley (6-11) and Purifoy (6-7) out, McLemore and Chuma Okeke were the only “tall” players getting any meaningful minutes. Horace Spencer has played a fair amount, but will have to step up even more now.
Bruce Pearl said McLemore’s surgery went well and that it will probably be about four months before he is back. It was one of those injuries similar to what we saw with Gordon Hayward earlier this season.
Still, Auburn fought back after being down by so much to South Carolina, but the deficit was just too much to overcome.
McLemore averaged 7.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and as I mentioned 2.7 blocks, which was #11 nationally.
Now Auburn only has eight players available for the remainder of the season.
2 – Auburn’s abysmal first half against South Carolina
Auburn was down 46-25 at halftime to South Carolina. A good chunk of that was before McLemore went out, and South Carolina just lit it up with two of their top three scorers coming off the bench.
South Carolina has had a little bit of Alabama in them this year, taking down multiple ranked opponents, yet looking awful against unranked teams. They beat Kentucky when they were #18, Florida when they were #20 and now Auburn when they were #10. South Carolina gets Auburn again, but at Auburn Arena to end the season.
I think part of the excitement for South Carolina to get up and play was three of the starters from last year’s Final Four run were there to receive rings for playing in the Final Four. They hung around practice the day before the game and laid into the team for playing so poorly at times. Outside of that game at Auburn, SC has a decent final few games to maybe work their way back up to middle of the pack and get a better seed in the SEC tournament.
3 – Alabama’s late game collapse against Kentucky
Kevin Knox had zero points in the first half, but 13 in the second half. He is their leading scorer by a long shot, and keeping him quiet early on was what kept Alabama in the game, yet he started hitting shots in the second half and that was the difference.
Alabama led with 8:34 left in the game, and had it as close as 2 points in the final few minutes, but the team got desperate and had some bad turnovers. Kentucky outscored Alabama by 10 on points off turnovers. Within the final few minutes, Petty had two turnovers, Sexton had two turnovers, and Alex Reese had a bad turnover.
Speaking of Reese, he was the leading scorer in the game at halftime with 10 points, providing a spark off the bench, including hitting a couple of threes. Then he didn’t really play a ton until he was put in late and made freshman mistakes including one of those bad turnovers. Despite that, I would have liked to have seen some more of Alex Reese in the second half.
4 – The best 3-point shooters for both Alabama and Auburn were ice cold on Saturday
Bryce Brown is shooting over 40% from beyond the arc and has 25 more made threes than the next best player in Jared Harper, yet he shot 2-13 from beyond the arc and 3-16 overall for only 10 points.
John Petty has been Alabama’s best 3-point shooter, hitting 37.6% of his threes and making 70 on the season, which is 39 more than Collin Sexton who is in second with only 31. He’s also attempted 91 more threes with 186 to Sexton’s 95. Petty was 3-10 from beyond the arc and 3-11 overall. Of Alabama’s first 16 registered shots, 12 were from beyond the arc.
5 – Donta Hall re-aggravating his wrist
The reason this was so low is because he played anyway and led the team with 16 points, shooting 7-8 from the floor with six rebounds and two blocks. However, it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward as it clearly didn’t seem 100%. Right after he initially hurt it again early in the game, he looked like he was in pain, but ran to the other end and blocked a Kentucky shot with that hand anyway.
Donta Hall is the most important player on this team right now and while I think players like Alex Reese are getting better, no one can replace Hall as of right now, so even though he’s still playing, it’s something to keep an eye on.