The Crimson Tide came out Saturday as if they really didn’t want to be in Athens, GA, falling behind 29-15 in the first 12 minutes of the game. With nothing to play for but pride, Coach Nate Oats rallied his troops and got a fantastic last 28 minutes out of his team. The Tide improved to 21-6 and 16-2 in the SEC. Georgia fell to 14-11 and 7-11 in conference.
The Tide started to turn with inspired play from starter John Petty and Keon Ellis, Jahvon Quinerly, and Darius Miles off the bench. Shots weren’t falling, but the effort and defense helped will the team to cut the deficit to only 36-30 at the break, finishing the half on a 15-7 run.
In the first half, Bama hit only 14-38 for 37% including just 2-12 from three point range, and also missed their only two free throw attempts. UGA blistered the nets with 14-29 for 52% and 4-8 from deep, but made only 2-5 free throw tries.
The Crimson Tide blasted out of the gates in the second half a new team, taking control of the game with a 15-2 run in the first few minutes of the half. Oats was asked what he said at halftime to facilitate such a run and answered “I don’t know, I guess make some shots.” The team listened. The Tide took the lead at 37-36 when Jordan Bruner nailed a three point attempt with 18:56 left. Herbert Jones played limited minutes in the first half because of - surprise! - foul trouble, but scored eight quick points. The Dogs couldn’t stay in front of Jones and he got to the rim with impunity.
HEATING UP...— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 6, 2021
Alabama now has their largest lead of the day over Georgia. pic.twitter.com/oIzc1zafMb
Alabama was able to keep from a three to ten point lead for most of the way, but Georgia wouldn’t go away. Bulldog point guard Shavir Wheeler did much of the work, scoring in the lane, hitting free throws, and dishing the ball to open shooters. KD Johnson hit several three point attempts to bring the Dogs back closer just when the Tide was ready to go for the kill shot.
Bama did also shoot themselves in the foot with careless turnovers just when the opportunity to totally take control came around. With 11:48 left UGA had cut the lead to 57-54, then to 59-57 with 11 minutes left. The Tide took it back out to a 10 point margin, 71-61, 8:34 remaining, but the resilient Dogs kept coming back. With 46 seconds left Keon Ellis hit the biggest shot of the day, draining a three pointer from the corner to make the lead six at 85-79. The shot was reminiscent of James Rojas SEC title clinching three in Starkville last weekend. Petty and Quinerly hit a pair of free throws each in the last few seconds to secure the 89-79 victory.
In the second half, the Tide heated up scoring 59 points on 19-30 shooting with a scorching 8-10 from three. The free throw shooting was still a smidge problematic with 13-18. For the game, the team finished 33-68 from the field for 48%, 10-22 from three for 45% and 13-20 from the stripe for 65%. The Tide ruled the boards grabbing 45 rebounds, had 14 assists, 10 steals, seven blocks, but 22 turnovers - 11 in each half. UGA finished at 46% shooting on 29-62, shot 8-19 from deep (42%), and made only 13-23 free throws. The Dogs grabbed 32 rebounds, had 18 assists, 11 steals, one block, but committed 20 turnovers.
Quinerly continued his strong play as of late and lead the team with 18 points on 5-8 shooting and 6-6 from the free throw line. Jelly added four rebounds and four assists. Petty had a strong game with 15 points and seven rebounds on 5-8 shooting. Jaden Shackelford scored 15 points and added six rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Joshua Primo broke out of his funk to score 11 points and had five rebounds. Jones did Jones things, 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, and a steal and a block. Ellis had nine points and had five rebounds. Alabama had 33 bench points, had 46 points in the paint, and 21 points off of turnovers.
Oats praised his team for the unselfishness, mentioned that he went small with Jones playing “the 5” which limited the minutes for Bruner, Alex Reese, James Rojas, and Juwan Gary, but they were all team, saying “they just wanted to win the game, and didn’t care about their minutes. This whole group is team first.” Gary remained active as always and had four rebounds in only eight minutes. Oats had high regard for the minutes that Darius Miles gave the team in the first half as well. The freshman has a rebound, a steal, and a block in his limited time on the court.
Considering the circumstances this was a great road win for the Tide. Playing only for pride, and falling down early, the team showed their grit and kept their composure in coming back for the win.
The best season in years will continue on next Friday at 11am CT in Nashville. The Tide will play either Kentucky or Mississippi State for the third time this season in their opening game of the SEC Tournament. Bama swept both teams this season.
Roll Tide #BallAndOats