The 24th ranked Crimson Tide basketball team took the floor at Coleman Coliseum to take on the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers in an exhibition game on Monday night. The Tide knew they would be missing three players due to injury, but had the added distraction of losing highly touted freshman Collin Sexton just prior to the game. According to Athletics Director Greg Byrne the department had been notified by the NCAA that "Collin Sexton has not had his eligibility reinstated by the NCAA." "We think the right decision was to err on the side of caution for tonight’s exhibition game." Coach Avery Johnson said Sexton's status suddenly changed "in the last eight hours."
The Tide was already short-handed with senior Riley Norris out with a hip injury, ArMond Davis out with a knee problem, and Braxton Key out with a "leg injury." After the game Johnson announced that Key would have surgery on Tuesday for a torn meniscus.
With all the distractions, it was no wonder that 'Bama came out flat and quickly fell behind to the Chargers. With Justin Ward leading the way, and scoring all of his team’s points, UAH charged out to a 14-1 lead over the Tide. Johnson sent out a starting five consisting of Avery Johnson Jr, Dazon Ingram, Donta Hall, John Petty and Herb Jones. After falling behind quickly, Alex Reese and Daniel Giddens entered the game and gave the team some life. 'Bama finally took a 19-18 lead and the rest of the first half was a back and forth affair, with UAH holding a 35-33 lead.
Giddens moved into the starting lineup for the second half, and continued to make his presence felt, hitting a jump hook to tie the game and a mid range jumper to give the Tide their first lead at 37-35. The game went back and forth until about the eight minute mark, holding the lead at between five and nine points for the remainder of the game. The Tide’s size and athletic ability took over and widened the lead out down the stretch.
Giddens, Petty, and Jones all had big games for the Tide. Giddens lead the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Petty had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Jones had 14 points, three rebounds and four assists. Johnson Jr. joined them in double figures with 10 and Ingram added nine with six rebounds. Hall grabbed eight rebounds to go with seven points, and Reese had eight rebounds in only 12 minutes of action.
Ward lead the way for UAH with 29 points, cooling down after scoring his team’s first 16 points. Chayse Elliott added 14 points and Sam Orf was also in double digits with 10.
The Tide shot 29-66 (44%) for the game, but only 3-21 (14%) from three point range, and continued to struggle at the free throw line with a 13-25 (52%) performance. 'Bama cleaned the glass to the tune of 50 rebounds, 18 on the offensive end. Seventeen turnovers against 10 assists was a negative, but 14 steals and six blocks helped offset those numbers. The Chargers hit 24-60 for 40% from the field including 10-29 (34%) from three while making 7-12 free throws and grabbing 35 rebounds while committing 20 turnovers.
'Bama was out of sorts to start the game, as Sexton has been the lead ball handler for the whole fall practice before being declared ineligible at the last minute. Key and Norris are important returnees from last season and their experience and leadership were missed. Ohio State transfer Giddens showed great athleticism on both ends of the court, with an offensive game the Tide has not had on the inside since the days of JaMychal Green. Petty and Jones showed speed, acceleration and the ability to get shots off from anywhere on the court. Ingram had his typical game and will be an important player, particularly if Sexton and Key miss significant time.
The pluses were the Tide was able to beat a very good, (albeit in DII), well-coached team without all their parts. Also, the rebounding was outstanding. The shooting, particularly from three point range and the free throw line will have to improve. Also, ball security will be important. Johnson wants the team to play fast and instinctively, so some turnovers will occur, but the careless ones will need to be eliminated. All in all, it was good to get a win, unlike our neighbors to the south-east who lost to a dude name Barry in overtime in their exhibition game.
With the regular season only days away, the Tide must prepare for a game in Annapolis, Maryland against Memphis on Friday night at 5:30 p.m. The game will be on CBS Sports Network (not CBS.) The Tide will return to Tuscaloosa for three games, on the 14th with Lipscomb, the 17th with Alabama A@M, and the 21st with UT Arlington. Hopefully the NCAA will move quickly (ha!) in deciding the fate of superstar Collin Sexton. With Sexton, Key, and Norris, the Tide will be a threat to make much noise in the NCAA. Without them, the season becomes a crap shoot.
Buckle Up and Roll Tide
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