By (Matthew Speakman)

Early in the second half, it looked like Alabama basketball was heading for familiar territory. LSU pulled within one point and freshman guard Collin Sexton went to the bench with four fouls. It looked like it would be another letdown game for the Crimson Tide

Rather than laying down, Alabama turned up the heat. The Crimson Tide went on a 26-3 run over 8:51 and blew the game wide open.

What seemed like a close game was no more. Alabama blew out LSU, 80-65, to improve to 17-9 overall and 8-5 in SEC play.

“In the second half, we had about a 7-to-10-minute spurt there that was about as good of basketball as we’ve played all year,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.

During that run, Alabama went to a more versatile lineup with multiple ball handlers. Freshman forward Herbert Jones acted as a point guard. At 6-foot-7, Jones provides a mismatch as he can see over the top of any defense.

That lineup was the difference in it being a close game, and it being a blowout.

“The flood gates opened,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “They’re pretty good defensively, and when you put (Herbert) Jones in there, they’re even better than when Sexton is in there because they have some length.”

That led to increased ball movement. During one stretch, Jones, along with other players, set up forward Donta Hall inside on multiple possessions. Hall took advantage. He tied his career-high with 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. On two occasions, he scored on acrobatic layups while getting fouled.

“I feel great, to be honest,” Hall said. “I actually gained 15 pounds since last season. I feel like that’s been a big part of me making contact baskets and on the boards.”

Along with Hall, forward Braxton Key continues to develop more confidence as he steps into a new role as the first player off of the bench.

Tonight, Alabama out-scored LSU by 29 points when he was on the floor. He had 12 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Key has embraced becoming a vital bench player.

“If (Avery Johnson) feels like I need to come off the bench and that helps the team the best, then I’ll do that the rest of the season,” Key said. “It doesn’t make a difference to me. As long as we’re winning and we make the tournament, I’m happy.”

The play of Key and Hall spread throughout the team as well. Sexton, despite being on the bench for an extended period of time, scored 15 points. Guard John Petty turned in 11 points and shot 3-of-3 from deep. Ball movement led to those players getting open.

Johnson said he didn’t like the team’s ball movement in the first half, but said his team answered the call in the second.

“Whenever we have four guys in double figures and the ball moves the way it did, especially in the second half, we can be somewhat of a good team,” Johnson said.

Next, Alabama will go on the road to take on Kentucky on Saturday, Feb. 17.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports