Alabama lost to Iona by a score of 72-68 on Thursday afternoon in their opening game of The ESPN Events Invitational. The Tide and the Gaels stayed even for the majority of the first half, with missed free throws keeping Bama from building a comfortable lead. Alabama took a 33-29 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the half Bama shot 52% on 13-25 from the field, but were only 1-5 (five!!) from three point range and 6-11 from the free throw line. Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford led the way at the break with 10 points each, with Shackelford adding seven rebounds. Iona was 12-32 for only 37% and 2-11 from deep at the break. The Tide led in rebounds 20-13 but had eight turnovers and only two assists.
In the second half the Tide started off like they were ready to take control of the game. Noah Gurley and Angry Chuck Bediako had baskets down low, and when Darius Miles made a smooth layup Bama led 41-33 with 14:17 left in the game. At that point Bama proceeded to miss five straight free throws before making one, putting them at 8-17 at this point.
When Shackelford hit at three pointer with 12:14 left the Tide had a 46-37 lead and looked like they were on their way to victory. Coach Nate Oats got a technical foul with 11:11 left for throwing a water bottle after a call went against his team. Oats had been undefeated at Alabama when receiving a T in his first two plus seasons. Alas, not the case this game.
Iona tied things up at 47-47 before Quinerly hit two free throws(!!) to take the lead. Shackelford hit a three with 8:33 left for a 54-48 Tide lead before things started going south. The Gaels hit a couple of three point shots and made their free throws to take a 59-57 lead. Miles tied it up, but Iona hit a three to go up with 4:58 remaining.
Davison had a chance to tie the game with 1:34 left but only made 1-2 and the Tide trailed 66-65. Shackelford hit another deep three to pull Bama within one at 69-68 with 54 seconds left. The Tide allowed the Gaels to rebound their own miss with 20 seconds left and had to foul. Iona made 1-2 and led 70-68 with 29 seconds left.
Quinerly drove the length of the court and attempted a layup, but was blocked from behind and Bama had to foul. Iona made both and the Tide had their first loss by a 72-68 score.
Bama shot 45% for the game, 25-56, including 5-17 from three for 29% and a putrid 13-25 for 52% from the line. The Tide had 38 rebounds, seven assists, seven steals, three blocks, and 13 turnovers. Iona finished 26-59 for 44%, only 4-21 for 19% from three and made 16-21 free throws. The Gaels had 33 rebounds, 13 assists, eight steals, five blocks, and committed 13 turnovers.
Individually Shackelford led the way with another double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 6-17 from the field and 4-10 from deep. Quinerly was the only other player in double digits with 15 points on 6-14 shooting including 0-2 from three point range and a bad 3-7 from the free throw line. JD Davison scored eight, but only made 4-8 from the charity stripe. Juwan Gary returned from injury and had four points and seven rebounds. Keon Ellis was way too passive on offense, taking only three shots and making two, scoring four points with eight rebounds, two steals, and a block. Iona had five players in double figures.
Iona got revenge for the Tide putting them out of the NCAA Tournament in March by being the more physical team, making their free throws, and preventing a barrage of three pointers. The Gaels controlled the tempo and played the smarter game to put the Tide in the losers bracket of the Invitational. The next game will be tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. CT against either Belmont or Drake. The TV channel has not been announced yet.
Bama needs to finish strong with a couple of wins over the weekend because the schedule is about to get much tougher. Gonzaga is on the slate on Saturday, December 4th, followed by Houston and Memphis over a 10 day period.