The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team returned to the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum for the first time since December 6th on Sunday night. A crowd of 10,000 came out to welcome the team back home. The resurgent Tide won for the fifth time in their last six games by defeating the Richmond Spiders 90-78. Bama improved to 7-5 on the season, while Richmond fell to 10-3. The Spiders have had wins over Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, and Boston College this season. Bama has now scored 90 or more points in each of the last three games, and has scored 80 or more in nine of their 12 games. This Oats system just might work.
The Tide starters were Kira Lewis, John Petty, Herbert Jones, Alex Reese, and Javian Davis. After a slow start Jaden Shackelford and Galin Smith replaced Davis and Reese. Davis got in early foul trouble, and was limited to 12 minutes in the game. Reese is still battling a couple of injuries, and was limited to 18 minutes played. In their stead Beetle Bolden logged 24 minutes, Shackelford was on the court for 30 minutes, while Galin Smith added 16 minutes of grind and grit.
With the Tide down 10-5 with 16 minutes left in the first half, Shackelford knocked down a pair of three-points shot from deep to give Bama a lead that they never gave up. After building a nine point advantage, the Spiders inched closer after a technical foul on coach Nate Oats. After a foul was called on Bama, Oats apparently asked referee Ron Groover if tonight was his first time calling games at this level. When Jacob Gilyard knocked down both free throws the spread was cut to 38-35 with two minutes remaining before intermission.
Shackelford hit another long range jumper, and the Tide led 43-39 at the break. On the last play of the half, Bolden had a collision with a Richmond player and remained on the floor for several minutes. It was reported he suffered a hip pointer and would be questionable for the second half, but the tough, scrappy, little guard did return and played around 12 minutes after the break.
Alabama didn't shoot nearly as well in the first half as they have over their last few games, hitting 16-37 for 43%, including 5-19 (26%) from deep, along with 6-8 from the free throw line-75%. At the break, the Spiders were 15-34 for 44% including 2-9 (22%) from deep and 7-9 from the free throw line.
In the second half, Reese, Lewis, and Petty all hit from long range to build a 52-45 lead with 15 minutes remaining. Bolden knocked down a three, and Shackelford added another, stretching the margin to 67-51, and it looked as if the Tide would cruise home from there. However, Richmond had a couple of runs in them, and cut the lead to only six, 77-71, with 5:44 left in the game.
Bama used a 13-7 run, fueled by some clutch free throws, and a length of the court slam by Petty to take the quality win by a score of 90-78.
The Tide was better after the break, 15-29 for 52%, 7-11 from three (63%), and made 10-13 free throws. The Bama defense held the Spiders to 12-35 (34%) in the second frame, with 4-15 from three point range. Richmond made 11-13 second half free throws.
The Tide shot well for the game, 31-66 for 47%, and 12-30 (40%) from three, and 16-21 (76%) from the free throw line. Bama dominated the boards with 49 rebounds, had 14 assists, 15 turnovers (only six in first half), six blocks, and four steals. Richmond had 36 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 turnovers, two blocks, and nine steals.
Bama put four players in double figures, led by the freshman Shackelford, who poured in a career high 28 points, and adding eight rebounds. Shack was 6-13 from deep, showing off his limitless range. Lewis added 17 with four rebounds and four assists, with only one turnover. Petty had 17 of his own, hitting 3-4 from deep, and added six rebounds and four assists, but led the team with seven turnovers. Jones had his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Reese made the most of his 18 minutes, scoring eight points, and grabbing eight rebounds, and added three assists. The diminutive Jacob Gilyard was the leader for Richmond with 21 points, four assists, and three steals.
Game to game you can see the growth of this Bama team. As they have gotten more comfortable in Oats system, the turnovers have gone down, the shots have gone in at a higher rate, and the team looks crisper in every aspect. With conference play set to begin next week, the squad is coming together at the right time. It is being said that the SEC is down this year, so there is a chance that Bama can ride this streak of improved play to a good conference record and a chance at post season play. Regardless, seeing an actual offensive system being run, and a fun, exciting brand of basketball being played, the future looks bright with coach Oats and his staff.
The Tide takes the court next on January 4th at 5 p.m. CT when the travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators. The game will be shown on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Roll Tide, #BallAndOats
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