The Crimson Tide fell to 1-2 on the season with a sloppy 93-79 loss to Rhode Island on Friday night. The road loss was the team’s first game away from Tuscaloosa this season. The Rams improved to 2-1. The Atlantic 10 Conference improved to 3-0 over the SEC this week with the victory. LSU and Vanderbilt also took L’s in the last two days.
Alabama got Herbert Jones back after missing a game and a half with a hyperextended elbow. Jones joined Kira Lewis, John Petty, Beetle Bolden, and Javian Davis in the starting lineup. The Tide started off fast and took a 6-0 lead. With 15 minutes left the Rams took a 10-8 lead, which they never relinquished.
With the Tide ice cold from three point range, and turning the ball over on seemingly every other possession, the lead grew to as much as 22 points in the first frame. The interior defense was nonexistent, and once again Bama had trouble finishing at the rim. The 0-10 performance from behind the three point stripe, 14 turnovers, 55% free throw shooting, and 39% shooting from the field was a recipe for disaster, and the Rams took a 50-33 lead into the locker room at the half.
Rhode Island was a blistering 18-32 at the half, including 5-11 from the three point line, and hit 9-14 free throws.
In the second half the Tide came out on a mission, and after an 11-0 run had cut the lead to 58-48 at the 13:23 mark, after Jaden Shackelford finally hit the team’s first three pointer of the game. Jones fourth foul slowed down the comeback attempt with 12:33 left. However, the Tide continued to battle and had shrunk the margin to 73-67 on a Petty deep ball with just over six minutes remaining. The Rams pushed it back to a 10 point deficit with 4 minutes left when Davis bullied his way down low for five straight points to make it 81-76 with 3:26 left.
At that point the Crimson Tide ran out of gas and was outscored 12-0 until Lewis hit a three point shot with just a few seconds left. Alabama improved to 17-30 (57%) from the field in the second half, including 5-12 (42%) from the three point line and 7-7 from the free throw line. The Rams cooled off to 15-31 (48%) in the second half and only 1-5 from deep, but knocked down 12-12 free throws. For the game the Tide finished 31-66 for 47% and a dismal 5-22 from three point range (22%), and 12-16 (75%) from the free throw line. Bama had 40 rebounds, 16 assists, 22 awful turnovers, five blocks, and four steals. The Rams had 31 rebounds, 15 assists, 12 rebounds, six blocks, and 13 big steals.
Lewis lead the team in scoring with 21 points on 8-13 shooting, added five rebounds, four assists, three steals, and committed three turnovers. Jones had a strong offensive game in his return, contributing 17 points with three rebounds, two blocks. Jones also drew a couple of charges, but did turn the ball over five times. Davis had his second straight big game, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Alex Reese came off the bench to add 10 points and five rebounds. Petty led in rebounds with eight, but scored only five points on 2-7 shooting and had four turnovers.
The Rams starting guards, Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell combined for 43 points on 17-29 shooting and combined for nine rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and only two turnovers. They were joined in double figures by Cyril Langevine with 12 and Tyrese Martin and Jacob Toppin with 11 apiece.
The Tide looked simply awful for the majority of the game, but did show some backbone by battling back to make a game out of the contest. They ran out of gas after cutting the lead to a workable number. With the loss of James Rojas and Juwan Gary to season ending knee injuries, and the NCAA debacle that is denying Jahvon Quinerly eligibility, Oats doesn't have the bodies he would like to best utilize the style he wants to play. Lewis is averaging about 39 minutes a game, and Petty is playing over 30 minutes per night. The emergence of Davis the last two games has been a pleasant, and needed, surprise. The redshirt freshman is active down low, is able to finish, and is a very good free throw shooter.
Oats teams are known for their frantic pace, and high volume three point shooting. This group that is available to him might not be well suited for that type of play. After three games, the Tide is shooting only 41% from the field and is a bad 28% from three point range. They are averaging just under 20 turnovers per game. There is an old saying in basketball, live by the three, die by the three, and Bama is doing the latter early in the season. Oats pre-season prediction of an NCAA bid might be a tough goal to reach if things don't change quickly.
The Tide returns home to play Furman on Tuesday night in a 7:00 tip. The game can be seen on the SEC Network Plus.
Roll Tide, #BallAndOats
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