The Crimson Tide basketball team pulled out a 73-68 victory over a tough, pesky, South Alabama team on Tuesday night in front of 9,038 fans at Coleman. The Jaguars played tougher than the Tide, drawing eight charges, five by LSU transfer Charles Manning, Jr. and almost pulled off the win as a 22.5 point underdog. The USA team featured two Auburn transfers, one from Texas A&M, one from TCU, one from Memphis, and one from VMI to go along with Manning.
Coach Nate Oats stuck with the same starting lineup of Keon Ellis, Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Gurley, and Charles Bediako. The Tide started off hot, jumping to a quick 10-2 lead before an Avery Johnson-esque scoring drought ensued. With 10:25 left in the half, USA took the lead at 15-14 and held it until the end of the period. The Jaguars held a 34-31 lead at the break. Alabama shot 13-31 for 42% in the half with 4-15 for 26% from three and 1-3 from the free throw line. The Tide committed 14 big turnovers. South Alabama shot 14-38 for 37% including 3-14 from deep and 3-4 from the free throw line.
In the second half Gurley made a basket followed by a “Angry Chuck” Bediako dunk to give the Tide a 35-34 lead with 18:45 left. About a minute later, Oats drew a technical foul after a no call on a what he saw as a clear travel on the Jaguars. When asked after the game if he was trying to send his team a message Oats responded, “no not at all, I thought their kid traveled, he drug his foot two feet.” USA made one of the two free throws and followed with a basket to take lead back at 37-35.
Oats also made it clear after the game that he hopes every single opposing coach this year gets called for a technical foul for crossing the line.
Things went back and forth over the next few minutes with the teams trading the lead back and forth. The Tide used their defense to fuel a 10-0 run that stretched to 14-2 over a couple of minutes and, with 8:03 left, held a 59-51 lead. Darius Miles, JD Davison, Bediako, Ellis, and Quinerly used their length and quickness to build the lead. Miles had a beautiful steal and break away dunk to highlight the run. Oats said that the run was keyed by “stops, transition game, and offensive rebounds” A charge and a throw away on Bama’s next two possessions allowed the Jaguars back in the game just when it seemed like the Tide was ready to put them away.
With 5:22 left the lead was back down to two at 60-58. The Tide had a chance to put some distance between the teams but poor free throw shooting held them back. With 3:03 left the game was tied at 61-61. With 1:56 left Bediako was fouled while shooting. The big Canadian freshman is not known for his touch at the free throw line but surprisingly knocked both shots down for a 66-62 lead. A steal and two subsequent Ellis free throws made the score 68-62 with 1:31 left. The crowd really erupted when Davison made a steal and went 94 feet for a thunderous dunk and a shiny 70-64 lead. The Tide continued their make-one-miss-one free throw shooting to keep the Jaguars within striking distance. Miles made one of two with 11 seconds left and USA scored a garbage basket to make the final 73-68 in favor of the now 3-0 Crimson Tide.
The Tide shot 14-30 for 46% in the second half with only 4-15 from three and 11-16 from the free throw line. Overall, Bama finished 27-61 for 44%, 7-27 from deep for 26% and 12-19 for 63% on free throws. The team had 39 rebounds, 13 assists, 22 huge turnovers. 12 steals, and nine blocks. South Alabama shot 11-27 for 40% in the second half, 4-11 from deep and 8-12 from the line. For the game the Jag’s finished 25-65 for 38%, 7-25 for 28% from three and 11-16 for 69% from the charity stripe. The visitors won the rebounding battle grabbing 40 boards, had eight assists, 21 turnovers, 10 steals, and two blocked shots.
Individually Shackelford and Ellis led the way with 18 points each. Shackelford had a double-double adding 10 rebounds, and shot 6-16 including 4-10 from three point range while playing 35 minutes. Ellis shot 6-10 and added six rebounds, three steals, and one assist. Miles was the third member of the team in double digits with 10 points, three steals, two rebounds, a block, and a team leading plus/minus of +10. Bediako continued his strong play with eight points, five rebounds, three steals, five blocks, and finished at +9, the second highest on the team. Quinerly had a quite game of eight points and five assists, while Gurley finished with nine points. Davison’s only basket of the night was his Sports Center worthy dunk and only had two assists, after averaging 5.5 a game entering the night.
Oats didn't seemed real pleased with the effort for the majority of the night and said that the Jaguars had more blue collar points than the Tide did, an unusual occurrence. Bediako won the teams hard hat award for his work in the game. When Oats was told that his teams are undefeated when he draws a technical he said “maybe when I see us struggling I’ll get T’ed up.”
Hopeful Juwan Gary and his injured ankle will be able to return to play soon. The team misses his toughness and tenacity. Gary, Ellis, Miles, and Davison are “dogs” that play with a certain edge that not everyone else does. Gary is relentless on the boards and has a motor that doesn't slow down on either end of the court. We aren't going to complain about a 3-0 start but the road is going to get a lot tougher sooner rather than later.
Next up will be Oakland on Friday at 7 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on SEC Network Plus again. After that come the tournament in Florida with an opening game on Thanksgiving Day at 4 p.m. against Rick Pitino and Iona. The game with be on ESPN2. The Tide will play on the 26th and 28th to close out the weekend.