The (extremely) short-handed Crimson Tide basketball team gave coach Nate Oats his first win at Alabama by running to a 78-59 victory over Florida Atlantic on Monday night in Tuscaloosa.
The Tide had already lost James Rojas and Juwan Gary to season-ending knee injuries before the season started. On top of that bad news, grad transfer (and fan favorite ) James “Beetle” Bolden is battling a lingering wrist injury, Alex Reese has a hip like a grandmother that took a fall, Galin Smith also has a bad wrist wrapped up, and Herbert Jones was a gametime scratch with a hyper-extended elbow after a big fall in last week’s opening game loss to Penn. In addition John Petty had a fall during the game and appeared to be grabbing his arm the rest of the night. On top of that the NCAA in their infinite wisdom denied transfer Jahvon Quinerly’s appeal for eligibility, and now must sit out the whole season.
Coach Oats sent out a starting lineup of Kira Lewis, Javian Davis, John Petty, Beetle Bolden, and Jaylen Forbes. Davis had a stellar night with 19 points and nine rebounds, and looks like he might well be the inside presence that the team needs and has searched for.
Bama came out and built a nice lead at 21-11 with 9:43 after Jaden Shackelford drained the first of his four three point shots. Oats earned a technical foul with around eight minutes left and after the Owl free throws, the lead was cut to 21-18. The technical seemed to wake the Tide up, as they closed the half on a 20-2 run and took a 43-25 lead into the locker room. The Tide shot 13-29 from the field, 5-14 from three, and 12-15 (!!) from the free throw line in the first stanza. FAU was held to 29% shooting, 10-34 in the half, and only 2-15 from deep and 3-4 from the free throw line. Lewis led the way with 11 points, Petty had eight, and Shackelford tossed in nine.
After the break, the Tide came out with vengeance and built on the lead. Davis was a man possessed in the second frame, scoring on several possessions in a row, mostly on drives to the basket with nice assists from Lewis. Davis showed an ability to finish the rim and scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half.
With nine minutes left in the game the Tide had built a 60-42 lead, and Tyler Barnes entered the game, a function of so many beat up bodies, to try and steal a few minutes and give some guys a short rest. Barnes is a junior walk on from Louisville, KY, and has had minimal playing time in his career, and never before the typical last minute trash time. In his three minutes of play Barnes contributed by grabbing four rebounds.
With 2:46 left Reese drained a three pointer to push the lead to 74-49, and from there the Tide just ran the clock out before finishing with the 78-59 victory. Oats emptied the bench and all the walk-ons played, as well as freshman Raymond Hawkins.
The Tide shot 13-30 in the second half, including 4-15 from deep, and 5-7 from the line. The Owls were 14-35, 3-13 from deep, and only 3-13 from the free throw line. For the game Bama finished 26-59 (44%), 9-29 (31%) from three point range, and 17-22 for 77% from the free throw line. The Bama defense forced the Owls to shoot only 24-69 (35%) from the field, including only 5-28 (18%) from the three point stripe and 6-17 (35%) from the free throw line. Bama won the boards 45-32, dished out 21 assists, but turned the ball over 19 times. The Tide added five blocks and five steals.
Davis was the breakout star with his huge 19 point, nine rebound, two assist game. Shackelford is simply a shooter and added 17 points on 6-10 shooting with 4-7 from deep. The California freshman appears to not ever met a shot he wouldn't take. Lewis was brilliant again with 16 points, eight assists, six rebounds, three steals, and only two turnovers. Reese joined that trio in double digits with 12 points and eight rebounds. Petty fell one point short of giving the team five double figure scorers, finishing with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, but also had six turnovers. Bolden brings the fire and energy to the squad, but got called for some tacky-tack fouls and fouled out after only 12 minutes of play.
This is a really fun team — although at times frustrating, (because of turnovers and trouble finishing at the rim) — to watch with the speed at which they play. The injuries cutting into the depth are quite unfortunate because the team needs bodies to be able to play at the frantic pace that Oats employs. Bolden is the fiery leader they need, as Lewis is very stoic in his demeanor. Bolden, in the game or on the bench, is the one pumping players and fans alike up for the full 40 minutes. Lewis being Lewis is going to be solid if not spectacular every night, Petty is still up and down, Reese can really help, but he is in noticeable pain with his hip. Bolden is in an ice sleeve for his painful wrist whenever he isn't in the game, and won't provide eye popping stats, but dang he is fun to watch. Shackelford is the microwave, heats up quickly. Jones, the defensive stopper, needs to get back healthy very soon. It will be paramount that the team doesn't lose anymore players to injuries that would cause lengthy recovery time. Overall a nice win over a so-so team.
The Tide goes on the road for their next game, playing Rhode Island at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The game will be available on NBCSN, whatever that is, and on the radio. This will be a tough early season test for the beat up Tide.
Roll Tide Roll #BallAndOats
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