In front of a lively home crowd of 10,330, the Crimson Tide basketball team came out strong and ran the Oakland Grizzles off the court by the score of 86-59 on Friday night. Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly scored 12 points apiece in the first half to stake the Tide to a comfortable 38-26 lead at the break. The duo helped make up for a quiet half out of Keon Ellis. Noah Gurley and Charles Bediako joined those three in the starting lineup for the fourth straight game. Bama improved to 4-0 while Oakland, with big victories over Oklahoma State and Toledo on their resume, fell to 2-2.
In the first half, the Tide shot 13-30 for 43% including 4-17 for 24% from three and where a nice 8-9 from the free throw line. The Grizzles shot even worse, 9-34 for 26%, 2-14 for 14% and made six of six free throws.
Bama came out with a purpose in the second half. Gurley got a jam on an alley-oop pass from Shackelford, who then scored on an old-fashioned and-one three point play. Ellis finally got a shot to go down from deep and the Tide led 48-32 with 16:03 left. When Darius Miles hit three free throws with 15:39 left the lead was 51-34 and Oakland never got closer the rest of the way. J D Davison playing the best game of his young career hit a long three and fed Bediako for an Angry Chuck running dunk, pushing the lead to 27 at 77-50 with around 4:30 left in the game.
With 3:30 left Alex Tchikou finally made is long awaited debut for the Tide. After coming in last season, Tchikou suffered a torn achilles and that on top of a two game suspension slowed his return to the court. Fifth year senior walk-on Tyler Barnes hit a three point shot for the Tide’s final points, sending his teammates on the bench into a frenzy.
The Tide’s shooting remained about the same in the second half, 16-37 for 43% with 6-19 from deep and 10-13 from the line. For the game, the team finished at 43% on 29-67 and continued to struggle from behind the arc at 10-36 for 27%, but they shot a sizzling 18-22 for 82% from the free throw line. Bama dominated the boards with 51 rebounds, had 15 assists, 12 turnovers— a big improvement from 22 last game— and added 10 blocks and four steals. The Tide’s defense remained great in the second half, holding Oakland to 10-29 for 30% from the field in the period with only 4-23 from deep. The Grizzles hit 11-16 for 68% from the line. For the game Oakland finish only 19-63 for 30%, 4-23 from deep for 17% and 17-22 for 77% from the stripe. The Grizzles had 35 rebounds, only three assists, nine turnovers, one block, and nine steals.
Individually, the Tide was led by Shackelford with 20 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Shack also won the teams hard hat award for the game. He became the 53rd played in program history to score 1,000 career points.
Quinerly added 19 points and had two assists and two steals while Bediako finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Davison was the fourth player in double figures and had a nice line of 10 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Gurley was solid with eight points and a game high tying seven boards. Ellis, the teams best player, had a subpar game with seven points and five rebounds, adding two assists and two steals. In years past, their best player having a stat line like that would be trouble for the Tide. This group, though, has several players that can, and do, pick up the slack. I have to give props to Oakland’s Jamal Cain, a Marquette transfer. Cain put up 32 points and had 10 rebounds for the Grizzles. Cain came in averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. Oddly, the slick grad transfer has yet to record an assist this season.
Coach Nate Oats was a lot more pleased with the teams performance, saying that “we played good defense and terrible offense against South Alabama, and good offense and terrible defense against South Dakota State, but put both sides together tonight.” The coach went on to say that 92% of the teams two point attempts were deemed “good shots”-Oats famously wants “layups, three’s and free’s.” Oats also said that even though the team only made 10-36 from three point range that “the fact that we take that many from deep still opens up the lane for us to do some things.” Oats was very free with his praise of Shackelford, saying that “scoring 1,000 points in two years in four games says a lot about his ability to score the ball” and continued to praise him for making better decisions and saying that “Shack and Keon (Ellis) are our best perimeter defenders, and we couldn't have said that the last two years.” “Jaden has work really hard at that, and knows he needs to since he wants to be a pro, and we want him to be a pro.” Oats also said that he thought Davison played his best game and that “if you play hard the points will come, which they did for JD and Bediako.”
This was a good win against a quality Mid-Major team. The Tide is deep and versatile and will only get better as Juwan Gary gets well and Davison and Bediako get more comfortable. Freshman Jusaun Holt is starting to see more minutes and although not scoring has been active on defense and on the boards.
Next up is the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando. The Tide will play Iona on Thursday November 25th at 4 p.m. CT. The game will be on either ESPN or ESPN2. On Friday Bama will play the winner or loser of the Belmont- Drake game with time TBA. Game three will be played on Sunday with an opponent and time to be determined.