Alabama hits its stride as strong 3-point shooting and double-double from Olaniyan overwhelm LSU

Tyler Waldrep

It’s hard to tell who was more excited for Riley Norris’ four of six start behind the arc, the junior who knocked them all down or the Alabama bench players that rushed out to congratulate him during the ensuing timeout.

“He gave all our team confidence and get them going and I think it’s really something that we needed,” Bola Olaniyan said.

One of those bench players, Ar’Mond Davis, wasn’t going to let Norris knock all the 3-pointers down. He finished three of six beyond the arc in the Crimson Tide’s 90-72 victory over the LSU Tigers (9-17, 1-13).

The Crimson Tide (16-10, 9-5), powered by 28 total first half points from Norris and Davis scored 51 points against the Tigers in the first half. A mark that fell just shy of breaking the team’s previous highest scoring half (53 points) which also happened to come against the Tigers from Baton Rouge, Louisiana when Alabama defeated LSU on Jan. 14.

“We know that if we come out with the right intensity then we can feed off of it for the rest of the game,” Norris said.

The Crimson Tide has struggled to do just that almost every time its taken the court recently. After the 18-point first half effort against Missouri on Wednesday, Alabama coach Avery Johnson struggled to believe it.

“When I walked in at the half I was looking at my coaches saying is that a 51 or 15 so that’s what we’ve been dealing with,” Johnson said.

 As bad the offensive performed in its last game, Johnson was especially disappointed with his team’s efforts against Kentucky and Auburn in home games he believes his team was capable of winning.

“We just had to radically change our program, because I didn’t like the looks in their eyes in our last couple home games,” Johnson said.

His solution was to check the entire team into a hotel on Friday so the guys could stay together and focus on the upcoming game.

 After Norris and Davis ended the day as the Crimson Tide’s top two scorers with 17 and 15 points, respectively, to help Alabama match its season-high 90-point effort (a game that required four overtimes against then No. 19 South Carolina on Feb. 7) it is a routine Johnson will continue.

Bola Olaniyan was one of three Alabama players to finish with 11 points (joined by Braxton Key and Jimmie Taylor) on Saturday, but his impact from the game stemmed from his ability to grab rebounds on both ends of the floor. He matched his previous career-high 16 rebounds in the victory to finish with the first double-double of his Alabama career.

“We have a lot of guys I can talk about tonight, but Bola was huge for us,” Johnson said. “There’s no coincidence that since his arrival our rebounding numbers have changed.”

The one thing Alabama seemed unable to do was stop LSU’s Antonio Blakeney from finding the basket. He finished with a game-high 28 points.

The win over the Tigers breaks the eight-win conference mark Alabama set during coach Avery Johnson’s first season with four games remaining.

“We’re trying to show that we’re taking the steps to improve whether that’s on the court, with recruiting, with our home attendance- it’s not just one area,” Johnson said. “But also with our SEC record if we can continue to improve and that we’re headed in the right direction I think that’s going to give our fans hope not only for today, but for the future.”