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Donta Hall leads the way as Tide basketball team rolls past Spartans 78-61 (via Crimson Magazine)

15 Dec 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: December 15, 2016

SCORE: Alabama 78, USC Upstate 61, as the Crimson Tide, coming off consecutive tough road losses to Texas and Oregon, gets back in the win column Thursday night and moves over the .500 mark once again.  The Crimson Tide made 9 of its first 13 shots to burst out to an 18-8 lead, but the visiting Spartans used an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 20-19 at the 8:22 mark of the first half.

The Tide, though, answered that run with a 19-6 surge and led 39-26 at the half thanks to shooting nearly 59 percent from the field. At the 17:52 mark of the second half,  Spartan senior center Michael Buchanan, a tremendous force inside for Eddie Payne's squad, picked up his fourth foul and the Tide quickly began to capitalize on his absence. A 7-2 spurt made the Tide lead 51-33, and Alabama led by as many as 23 points in the half before settling for its 17-point margin.

SITE: Coleman Coliseum, Attendance: 9,773

RECORDS: Alabama 5-4, USC Upstate 7-6

KEY STARS FOR THE TIDE: Sophomore forward Donta Hall, making his second start for the Tide, led Avery Johnson's team with 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field, while adding eight boards, two assists and a block. Braxton Key and Corban Collins added 10 points each. Bola Olaniyan, who also got the start, led the Tide with 10 rebounds while Key and Dazon Ingram had five and four assists respectively. Riley Norris added nine points and four boards off the bench.

GOOD NUMBERS: Alabama shot 53.4 percent from the field (31 of 58) for the game after the torrid start. It also outrebounded the Spartans 44-33. Alabama outscored the visitors 48-20 in the paint, 17-6 off turnovers, 16-9 on second chance points, 12-0 in fast break points and 32-21 in points off the bench. The Crimson Tide had 10 players get in the scoring column against the Spartans. Alabama had 16 assists to nine for USC Upstate.

NOT SO GOOD NUMBERS: Although the Crimson Tide shot well from the field, it only made six of its 20 attempts from 3-point range for 30 percent. Alabama hit 10 of its 18 free throw attempts and it had 10 turnovers on the night.

COACH SPEAK: "(Hall), he's just continuing to improve," said Johnson "He's having an impact on both ends of the floor. He's got a little post move that we've been working on It's really fun to watch him get better and better, and if he can continue to give us this type of production, than we'll have somebody we can throw the ball to along with Jimmie (Taylor) in the low post. I saw that he made two free throws in a row after he missed his first two. So I think this kid has a high ceiling."

PLAYER SPEAK: "We've got great guys inside like Bola, Donta and Jimmie who all can score inside, even Shannon (Hale) was scoring inside," said Key. "I think offensive rebounds were where we got a lot of our points and that's what we need to do more of, crashing the boards offensively. That leads to easy second-chance points, whether it's a three or even a layup."

AVERY JOHNSON ON THE PASSING OF LONGTIME POPULAR SPORTS REPORTER CRAIG SAGER: "From somebody who spent four years in the media and over the years in my NBA and coaching career being covered by Craig, I saw professionalism, integrity, honesty, wit, I saw flair, flash, I didn't always understand (Sager's usually colorful) suits, and I saw one person that could get (San Antonio Spurs) Coach (Gregg) Popovich to smile and cooperate in doing the sideline interviews. at the end of the first and third quarter. So, Craig is going to be deeply missed. We send all our thoughts and prayers to his family. People want to throw the word legend around, or media giant. He was there at the beginning of TNT and I just want to say may he rest in peace and my life is better because I had a chance to cross paths with him."

NEXT UP FOR THE TIDE: The Crimson Tide will face the Clemson Tigers in the BBVA Compass Vulcan Classic on Sunday, Dec. 18 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CT with the contest airing on ESPNU.
Tickets are on sale at RollTide.com or on Ticketmaster.com.

Special thanks: Alabama Athletics Communications

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Rocket City Journal is Huntsville, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

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