Maybe Monday was a wake up call. When the Crimson Tide was dominated by Stanford on Monday night a lot of people around here were thinking here we go again, high expectations with low returns. Bama started turning things around on Tuesday by soundly beating UNLV and then took fifth place in The Maui Invitational by beating Providence 88-71 on Wednesday. The Tide improved to 3-1, while The Friars fell to 2-2.
The game didn't start out ideally as Providence scored the first eight points of the game. After that the Tide went on a 17-3 run to take a lead that they never gave up. Seniors John Petty and Herb Jones were the stars of the first stanza. Petty scored 10 points with three rebounds while Jones had eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Jones spent much of the half running the point in place of Jahvon Quinerly, who was in early foul trouble. The halftime margin was 41-32 in the Tide’s favor.
Bama shot 13-32 for 40% including 4-17 from three point range, but hit 11-12 free throws in the half. The Friars were only 9-26 for 34%, including just 2-13 from deep, but did hit 12-15 free throws to help them stay as close as they did.
The Tide was able to get, and keep, a double digit lead early in the second half, then slowly pulled away from Providence. With 10 minutes left the lead area to 72-49 before the offense became stagnant as the Tide tried to slow things down, which isn't in their DNA. Missed shots, careless turnovers, a four minute scoring drought, and lack of urgency followed, allowing Providence to cut the lead to 11. Quinerly finally hit a three pointer to get the Tide back in the groove, followed by long range makes from Jaden Shackelford and Joshua Primo. Coach Nate Oats began emptying the bench and the Tide coasted to the 88-71 win.
Bama lit it up in the second half shooting 16-30 for 53%, including 8-12 from three point range and 7-11 from the charity stripe. For the game the team shot 29-62 for 47% and 12-29 from three for 41%, and a sexy 18-23 for 78% from the free throw line. The defense held the Friars to 41% on the game and 21% from three point range. The Tide won the rebounding battle over the big, strong Friars by 48-28. Alabama had 12 assists, 13 turnovers, zero blocks and five steals. PU dished 11 assists, turned it over nine times, had three blocks, and nine steals.
For the second night in a row the Tide had five players in double figures, led by birthday boy John Petty’s 16 points to go with five rebounds and two assists. Shackelford and Primo both were 3-6 from three point range and scored 15 apiece. For the second game in a row Primo set a new career high in scoring. Jones had another big game with 11 points, a team leading eight rebounds, a team leading five assists. and two steals, and won the team’s hard hat award yet again. To be fair he did commit five turnovers, most of them late when the Tide was icing the ball. Quinerly fought around foul trouble to finish with 10. Jordan Bruner was a rock inside and had seven points and seven rebounds. Alex Reese found his rhythm a little and hit 2-4 shots from three point range.
Oats expanded the rotation a little bit with Keon Ellis back available and seven players had 17 or more minutes, including two with nine minutes each. Jones led the way with 32 minutes.
This was a good win against a good team. Providence was picked to finish third in the Big East and has a very solid team. They have been receiving votes in the top 25 polls. Bama played with a lot more effort and intensity than they did on Monday. The ball movement and unselfishness was apparent.
Oats said that the team improved over the three days because “guys realized how hard it is to win a D1 basketball game, and how much effort it takes.” The coach was impressed with Primo the last two games and said he “will get more minutes.” Oats went on to add the Primo had a hip injury this summer that hampered him for about six weeks but that he looks to have improved to close to 100%. He also said that “Alex Reese was great tonight, he gave us some great defense on their big guy Nate Watson and helped control him.” A late game chase down and block by Juwan Gary caught the coach’s eye as well, saying that seeing that play “makes me want to give him more minutes.”
After stinking up the joint on Monday it was great to see the Tide bounce back and finish strong with two wins. Now the trick is to keep that edge until they play again on December 12th. Bama will travel to Atlanta to play Clemson at a time to be determined and will be shown on one of the ESPN channels.