The resurgent Alabama basketball team took to the road for their latest home game, playing Belmont in Huntsville on Saturday afternoon. The annual Rocket City Classic game has been good to the Tide, as they've yet to lose since starting participating. In previous years, the small arena (around 6,500 capacity) has had a full and raucous crowd in attendance. In today’s game, though, that wasn't the case. An announced crowd of 5,700 was likely closer to 4,000, but they were treated to some great play from the Tide. Bama used six players scoring in double figures to win by a score of 92-72, improving to a 6-5 record. Belmont fell to 8-3 on the season.
Coach Nate Oats trotted out a starting five of Kira Lewis, John Petty, Herbert Jones, Alex Reese, and Jaden Shackelford. The hot shooting that the team showed on Wednesday in Birmingham continued from the outset. Petty, Jones (!!!), and Shackelford all knocked down early three pointers to get things started, pushing the Tide to a 15-11 lead after eight minutes. The Bruins then had a hot streak of their own, and forged a 32-26 lead with five minutes remaining win the first half. From the 3:58 mark, until the end of the half, the Tide went on an 18-4 run to carry a 46-38 lead in the locker room.
In the first half, the Tide shot 17-30 (56%) from the field, including 8-15 (53%) from the three point line, but only shot 50%, 4-8, from the free throw line. The Bruins were 16-37 (43%) from the field in the period, including only 3-13 from deep and 3-5 from the free throw line.
The Tide took control right out of the gate in the second half with Reese, Jones, and Javian Davis pouring in baskets. With just under 12 minutes remaining, the Tide had a 69-48 lead, and despite a mini run by Belmont, never let up. Bama scored 46 points in each half to go over 80 points for the seventh time in 11 games this season.
Bama had six players in double figures, the five starters plus Javian Davis. Shackleford led the way with 16 points on 6-12 from the field, and 4-6 from deep. Jones had his best game of the season, with 15 points on 6-10 shooting, added six rebounds, and five assists. Lewis did it all, with 15 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, two steals, a block, and more importantly, only one turnover. Petty had a big day in his home town, notching his second straight double-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. Reese added 13 points and five rebounds, and Davis contributed 12 points and six rebounds as he continues to impress.
The Tide cooled off in the second half to 46% from the field and 35% from deep, but improved to 6-8 from the stripe. Belmont was held to 37% from the field, 23% from three, and was 4-4 from the free throw line. For the game, the Tide shot a very good 50%, 34-67, and 14-32 (44%) from three point range, and finished badly, 10-16, 62%, from the free throw line. The Tide's tough defense held a very good offensive team to 40% from the field, 23% from deep, and 7-9 from the free throw line.
Alabama had 44 rebounds, had 20 assists, four blocks, four steals, and committed 13 turnovers. Belmont grabbed 37 rebounds, had only nine assists, four blocks, seven steals, and gave the ball up 12 times.
This Alabama team is so much fun to watch when they are making shots. They seem to be getting more comfortable in Oats system, and are playing more under control. Although still missing the three key players that will be out for the season, the available players are getting a little healthier. Reese, Jones, and Bolden often haven't been able to participate in practice with the nagging injuries they have been nursing. They will continue to understand and embrace what Oats expects from them, and when there are more players to use (next year, unfortunately) the Tide will start to rise.
The Tide will take a Christmas break, with the players due back for an evening practice on December 26th, before taking the court again. The next game is Sunday, December 29th at 5:30 in Coleman Coliseum (finally!!!), a home game - one of only two in the month of December - and only the fifth so far this season. Richmond is 10-1 on the season, with their only loss to Auburn. The game can be seen on the SEC Network, and is part of a doubleheader, with the women playing at 2 p.m.
Follow @rogerpatmyers on Twitter for live updates