Alabama followed the high of beating two straight final four teams from last year by losing to a 5-4 Memphis team on Tuesday night. The Tigers played their best, most inspired game of the year to break a four game losing streak, whereas the Tide was listless and uninspired. Memphis ran away with a 92-78 victory. The Tide fell to 8-2 while the Tigers improved to 6-4 on the season.
Coach Nate Oats stayed with his starting five of Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, Juwan Gary, Keon Ellis, and Charles Bediako. Freshman sensation JD Davison replaced Quinerly just two minutes into the half and with Bama down 5-2. Davison ignited the Tide with his passing and when he hit Noah Gurley with a perfect alley-oop pass for his sixth assist in six minutes, the Tide had an 18-13 lead with 12:09 left. Darius Miles came off the bench and hit a couple of early threes, and Bama held a 30-29 lead with 4:17 left in the half.
Then the turnover bug hit and Memphis used a strong pick and roll game to close the half on an 8-0 run for a 37-32 lead at the break.
The Tide shot 13-29 in the half including just 3-12 from deep and made 3 of 5 free throws, had 17 first half rebounds, nine assists, and 11 big turnovers. The Tigers made
15-30 first half shots with 5-14 from three and 2-3 from the free throw line. Memphis had 15 rebounds and mirrored the Tide with nine assists and 11 turnovers.
The Tigers came out hot in the second half and built a quick eight point lead after the first two minutes of the stanza. With 14:20 left and a 51-42 score the Tide had hit only 4-20 three point attempts. The Memphis lead ballooned to 19 with 12:39 before Bama showed a little life.
Ellis nailed a couple of long three point attempts, followed by makes by Miles and Shackelford to give the Tide a chance, down 79-70 with 3:37 remaining. Alas, Memphis continued to dominate down low, getting uncontested dunk after uncontested dunk while also making their free throw attempts. Quinerly threw in a couple of late three pointers, but way too little way too late and the Tide went down 92-78.
Alabama finished 30-64 shooting for 47%, 10-32 from deep for 31%, 8-12 from the line and had 31 rebounds, 16 assists, 11 steals, 20 turnovers, and committed 20 fouls. Memphis shot 32-61 for 52% including 8-24 from deep and made 20-25 free throws for 80%, well above their season percentage. The Tigers had 33 rebounds, 14 on the offensive glass, dished 20 assists, 12 steals, 17 turnovers, and fouled only 12 times.
Individually Ellis broke out of his scoring slump to lead the way with 19 points on 7-13 shooting, 3-9 from three, and added six rebounds.
GO OFF THEN, KEON ELLIS. pic.twitter.com/l2hSDTJvv1— SLAM University (@slam_university) December 15, 2021
Quinerly’s late surge gave him 12 points with six rebounds and four assists. Shackelford finally cooled off after his hot streak the previous three games and scored 10 on 4-12 shooting, and once again led the team with eight rebounds. Davison had eight points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as he continues to improve game by game. Miles and Bediako had nine points each and combined for zero rebounds. In the last two games, Bediako, the team’s 7’0” freshman center, has one total rebound.
Just an all around lackluster performance by the Tide after two huge wins over top 15 teams. Fatigue could have had something to do with it, over-confidence could have as well. The rat poison has been out there for the sixth ranked Tide. Basketball seasons are long and there will be losses along the way. Memphis is an ultra talented team that finally got it together in tonight’s game and look to use the win as a springboard to a big season.
The only real positive I can find is that Ellis came out of his funk after a few subpar games offensively. The elephant in the room is the lack of toughness down low. Between Bediako and Gurley the team needs more than they are getting on the glass. The two have combined for three rebounds in the last two games. It might be time to give Keon Ambrose-Hylton and Alex Tchikou some minutes while Bediako continues to adjust to the physical college game. James Rojas should be back after the first of the year and will bring a big strong presence to the team.
Not the end of the world by any means, Bama has a great team that will bounce back. The Tide takes the court again on Saturday when they host Jacksonville State at 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.