By: Cody Mroczka
COLUMBIA – Levi Randolph got hot and never cooled off.
The Alabama junior guard started the game on the bench, but by the end of the first half he had poured in 19 points against the visiting Missouri Tigers.
Randolph came into the contest averaging just eight points a game. He had scored just 24 points in Alabama’s last seven games before lighting up Missouri for a career-high 33 points on Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.
The 6-foot-5-inch swingman poured in an impressive 11 of 17 shots, which included five of seven shooting from behind the 3-point line in the 80-73 victory.
After taking an early 16-15 lead, the Tigers fell behind and trailed 42-35 at the end of the first half. Had it not been for guard Earnest Ross, who finished with a team high 25 points, the Missouri loss would have been much worse. As leading scorers Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown struggled to score offensively in the first half, Ross’ 13 points kept the Tigers hanging around. Brown would pick up the scoring in the second half, scoring 16 of his 23 points, but it wasn’t enough to complete a comeback.
Despite outrebounding the Crimson Tide 36-24, the Tigers could do little to slow down Randolph and his teammates. Alabama shot 57 percent and made 10 3-pointers, compared to the Tigers who shot 47 percent and made five 3-pointers.
Missouri struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm while turning the ball over 16 times. Four of the turnovers came from Clarkson, who also had a tough night shooting the ball. He finished four of 15 for 14 points.
The Tigers foiled attempt for a comeback came from the inability to get defensive stops down the stretch. Whenever Alabama needed a bucket with the Tigers crawling back, Randolph or fellow guard Travis Releford delivered. The duo combined to score 24 of the Crimson Tide’s 38 second half points.
“The leaders of our team, Jabari and Jordan, those guys have got to defend,” Missouri coach Frank Haith told reporters after the game.
With four crucial games remaining before the SEC Tournament, the Tigers will likely be back on the NCAA Tournament bubble next week. This loss definitely hurts Missouri’s chances, but a strong finish to the regular season combined with a good performance in the conference tournament could still get them in. Missouri travels to Georgia on Tuesday and looks to avenge its previous loss to the Bulldogs earlier this season at home.