The Davidson Wildcats were a late fill in to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the C.M. Newton Classic on Tuesday night. Davidson was a replacement for Colorado State, who backed out after a Covid breakout at the school. The hot shooting Cats took down the Tide by a score of 79-78. Bama fell to 9-3 with the loss while Davidson improved to 9-2 on the year. The game was played in the newly remodeled Legacy Arena at the BJCC in Birmingham.
Coach Nate Oats kept the same starting five of Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, Jahvon Quinerly, Juway Gary, and Charles Bediako that he has used over the last several games. Shackelford, the leading scored in the SEC, went scoreless in Saturday’s win over Jacksonville State but wasted no time in scoring in this game by scoring the teams first five points. The Tide had a 10-4 lead after the first few minutes but the lead quickly dissolved. The Wildcats used a combination of deadly outside shooting and fantastic inside play by Luka Brajkovic to take the lead of 20-12 with 9:15 left in the period.
Quinerly and Gary both hit three point shots to close within 25-22 with six minutes left. Quinerly then limped off the court with a lower leg issue. Davidson’s Hyunjung Lee made a four point play when Noah Gurley fouled him on a three point attempt and hit the free throw that followed. Shackelford and Gurley both hit triples to push the Tide ahead 34-33 before Davidson closed the half strong and led 41-35 at the break. Shackelford had 12 points in the first half.
Alabama was 12-28 from the field for 43% in the half including 7-19 for 37% from three and made all four of their free throw tries. The team had 17 rebounds and eight assists in the stanza. Davidson hit a scoring 15-29 for 52% with 8-15 from three for 53% and made all three of their free throw attempts. The Wildcats at 13 rebounds and 14 assists (on 15 made baskets) in the half.
The second half brought the same starters out and the Tide closed the lead to 43-39 quickly. However Davidson went on a tear and stretched the lead to 52-39 with 16:38 left in the game. The Tide worked their way back in the game by getting a few defensive stops and three point baskets from Shackelford and Gary. The score stood at 56-53 in Davidson's favor with around 10 minutes left. Ellis hit his first basket of the game, a three pointer, with 6:52 left to pull the Tide within 64-62. Ellis hit another three with 4:15 left to make the scored 72-69 in favor to the Wildcats. Davidson continued to get baskets down low and when the 7 foot tall Brajkovic banked in a three pointer from the top of the key, things looked bleak with a 10 point deficit.
The Tide made a furious run, Shackelford hit another three pointer to cut it to 79-72 and after a stop, Ellis made an old fashioned three point play cutting the lead to 79-75 with 53 seconds left in the game. A steal and a breakaway dunk by Darius Miles made it 79-77 with 16 seconds remaining. Bama smothered the Wildcats on their inbounds play and knocked the ball off the Davidson player to get the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Quinerly had a lane to the basket for what looked like a tying layup, but was fouled on the way. Quinerly made the first shot but missed the second and Davidson grabbed the rebound with 3.3 seconds on the clock. Unfortunately the Tide only had four team fouls at the time and didn't have enough time to commit three fouls to put the Wildcats at the line. One of the few times that you complain about not having enough team fouls. There were only a total of 25 fouls called in the game and the teams combined to attempt only 13 free throws. Davidson ran the clock out and took the win over the 10th ranked Tide 79-78.
In the second half the Tide shot 18-39 including 5-17 from three and 2-4 from the free throw line. For the game the team was 30-67 for 45%, 12-36 from deep for 33%, 6-8 from the line, had 39 rebounds, 17 assists, 5 steals, four blocks, and 11 turnovers. Davidson was 16-29 in the half, 4-9 from deep and 2-2 from the stripe. For the game the Wildcats finished 31-58 for 53%, 12-24 from three and 5-5 from the free throw line. The team finished with 27 rebounds, 22 assists, six steals, three blocks, and 11 turnovers.
Individually Shackelford had 20 points on 8-15 shooting- 4-11 from deep- and had five rebounds. Gary scored 15 points on 4-5 shooting and led the team with eight rebounds. Quinerly shot 5-16, scoring 13 points. Ellis had nine points, four rebounds, and four assists, after having two straight games of leading the team in scoring. Gurley had one of his better games with nine points and six rebounds and was the team lead in plus/minus at +17. After a nice game Saturday, Bediako struggled, scoring four points with four rebounds and a plus/minus of -18- by far the worse on the team. Davidson was led by Brajkovic who abused the Tide’s inside players with 22 points and seven rebounds. Michael Jones added 21 while Lee tossed in 17.
After the game Oats bemoaned the teams defense, saying “we haven't been good on defense lately- and until we do we are not going to be able to beat quality teams.” Oats also mentioned that Bediako has had the best defensive numbers on the team all year, but that “tonight he had the worst defensive efficiency numbers on the team.” The coach went on to say that Ellis was one of the better permitter defenders on the team last year, but has not been quite as good this year. The team is really missing Herbert Jones and John Petty in many ways, but particularly on the defensive end, as well as the veteran leadership that they and Alex Reese provided.
Bama took care of the board problem that they have had recently, even getting 16 on the offensive end. But the patient, old school Wildcats just carved them up with picks, pick and rolls, and pick and pops. The defense intensity needs to come quickly as the Tide opens SEC play next Wednesday when the host Tennessee. The home game will start at 8 p.m. CT and be shown on ESPN2.