The Crimson Tide improved to 4-2 on the season by defeating a very good Furman team by a score of 83-80 on Tuesday night. For much of the night things did not look good for the Tide. Furman shot lights out in the first half and had a 32-16 lead with 8:23 left.
Furman is a veteran team that won the So Con last year, and are favored to win it this season as well. Great shooting got the Paladins out to a fast start and they threatened to blow the Tide off the floor. Little used Juwan Gary came off the bench to provide a big spark for Bama, scoring 10 points in eight minutes, and helped cut the halftime margin to 47-37.
Furman hit 18-29 shots in the first for 62%, 8-17 for 47% from deep along with 3-4 from the free throw line. The Tide was just 14-35 for 40%, including 6-18 from deep and 3-5 from the free throw line. The mini run at the end of the half was a key to the comeback.
Jahvon Quinerly and Herbert Jones hit three point shots coming out of the break to bring the Tide closer. Back and forth ensued with Bama battling to keep the game under double digits. James Rojas came off the bench and provided some toughness. He bullied his way through the lane and played hard on defense. The 6’8” Jamestown, NY native might have made his best play of the night by drawing the fifth foul on Furman’s Clay Mounce. Mounce was leading the team with 21 points when he fouled out with 8:22 left in the game. From that point the Tide outscored the Paladins by a score of 21-10. Rojas should see more minutes going forward.
With 5:56 left Jaden Shackelford hit his only three point shot of the night to draw the Tide within three at 71-68. John Petty got fouled with 1:52 left and hit 1-2 free throws to tie the game at 76 each. After a defensive stop Rojas gave the Tide their first lead of the game when he knocked down a three point shot on a great pass from Jones, 79-76. Shackelford hit a driving shot to give the team a 83-78 lead with 12 seconds left, and was then fouled after a steal. However he missed both free throws, and Furman quickly scored and fouled Shackelford again after the inbounds. Shackleford again missed both but Jordan Bruner blocked a long try by Furman to end the game with the Tide on top 83-80.
The Tide improved to 50% in the second half hitting 16-32 shots, with 4-13 from deep, but a dismal 10-20 from the stripe. The defense improved and held Furman to 10-30 from the field, including 5-19 from deep, but the Paladins did hit 8-9 from the free throw line. For the game Alabama finished 30-67 for the field with 10-31 from deep and an anemic 13-25 from the free throw line. Furman finished 28-59 from the field, 13-36 from three and 11-13 from the line.
After getting killed on the boards in the Clemson game on Saturday, the Tide took the challenge from coach Nate Oats to heart and won the rebounding battle 49-28. Another point of emphasis was second chance points and the Tide won that battle 24-3, fueled by 21 big offensive rebounds. Alabama dished 17 assists, had only 10 turnovers, five steals, and four blocks. Furman also took care of the ball with 10 turnovers to go with 16 assists, one block, and eight steals.
Once again Jones led the way, notching a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while running the point for much of the night and dishing four assists with two blocked shots and only two turnovers. Shackelford managed to score 13 points despite not shooting well. and Rojas finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of play. Gary gave eight high energy minutes and had 10 points and three rebounds. Petty’s shot was off, but he played hard and scored six points with seven rebounds and a team leading five assists. Bruner contributed nine points and five rebounds.
Oats tweaked the rotation during the game, giving more minutes to Rojas and Gary, and limiting the minutes of Quinerly and Alex Reese. When asked about the Quinerly only playing 17 minutes (and barely at all in the second half), Oats said that Quinerly needed to learn to guard better. Oats went “small” more in the second half to clamp down on Furman, and it worked. Reese and Bruner joined Quinerly in having their minutes reduced as the game went on. The second year coach mentioned that the team needs to do a better job at finishing at the rims-several point blanks shots were missed again. Oats continued that Petty played hard even though his shots weren't falling and felt that was a big key to victory.
This was a quality win against a good opponent and Oats seemed to learn more about his team. He has a lot of pieces he can use depending on the style and size of the other team. Rojas attacks like a bull in a china shop and gives the team toughness that it needs. Gary plays with his hair on fire and his in constant motion, he is earning more minutes for himself with each game he plays. Bruner seems to be hampered by his knee injury and may need to play in short bursts. Quinerly is so quick and good on offense, but he is going to have to play more defense. After six games Oats is piecing together what parts to use from game to game.
The Tide plays again on Saturday at 1 p.m. when Western Kentucky comes to town as a replacement for the Houston Cougars. Houston is battling Covid and will not be able to play this weekend. The game can be seen on ESPNU.