The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team broke their three game losing streak by beating 13th ranked LSU on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa by a score of 70-67. The team's shooting woes got worse if anything, but effort, toughness, defense, and rebounding were on display in the thrilling victory after Nate Oats publicly challenged his team in that regard this week. Alabama improved to 12-6 overall and 3-3 in conference while LSU fell to 15-3, 3-3. The win was much needed and hopefully will propel the Tide on a winning streak. The Tide has now won five games in a row over Will Wade and his Tigers.
Coach Nate Oats said that Jahvon Quinerly came to him and said “Coach, what can I do to help, do you want me to come off the bench like last year?” Quinerly was one of the best guards in the country late last season coming off the bench and was the MVP of the SEC Tournament doing such. Oats agreed and said “we thought it might get him going and also maybe help JD (freshman guard JD Davison) as well.” The move did seem to energize Quinerly as he had his best game in a few weeks. Noah Gurley, Keon Ellis, Jaden Shackelford, and Charles Bediako joined Davison in the starting lineup. The start was the first of Davison’s career.
LSU is the top rated defensive team in the country, and they showed that early. With 11:20 left in the first half, LSU led 14-9 and the Tide had made only two field goals. Miles, Ellis, Shackelford twice, and Quinerly twice, hit six three pointers in a row fo fuel the Tide to a 29-23 lead with 2:15 left in the first. At the break, Bama lead the Tigers 33-32 after LSU had a four point play to close out the half.
Alabama shot 10-29 for 35% in the first with 7-19 from three for 37% and made 6-8 free throws. LSU shot 13-29 for 45% including 5-11 from three and made only 1-3 from the free throw line. If you think the Tide shot poorly in the first half the second half said “hold my beer.”
The Tide came out of the half with the same starters and kept the Tigers at bay, forging a lead of 6-8 points over the first 10 minutes of the final period. With 8:06 left Shackelford got fouled going to the basket, drawing the ire of LSU coach Will “Strong Ass Offer” Wade, who was called for a technical foul. Shackelford calmly made all four freebies and all of a sudden the Tide had a lead 57-44 and looked like they could coast to victory from there.
However, the Tigers had different thoughts on that idea. LSU hit three straight long range shots to close the gap, and with 4:13 left, the game was tied at 58-58. A Gurley dunk with 2:45 left gave the Tide a lead of 65-60 and was the last field goal make by the team. At the same time Bama stopped making their free throws, leading to a life line for the Tigers.
With 22.9 seconds left, Bama led 68-64 and had the ball on a break. Instead of pulling up and running clock or getting fouled, Shackelford tried a tough pass to Ellis and threw the ball away, followed by Gurley fouling Brandon Murray on a three point attempt. Murray made two of the three to make it a two point game. Shackelford got fouled with 18.8 seconds left, and missed both tries- but LSU lost the ball out of bounds. Gurley was then fouled and he, too, missed both free throw attempts. The Tide still led 68-64 with 15.8 seconds left. LSU threw in a long three pointer to cut the lead to one with only 5.8 seconds remaining. This time Bama got the ball in Ellis’s hands, the team's best free throw shooter, and he made both. The Tigers had 5.2 seconds left to try a tying basket but Eric Gaines missed at the buzzer as the clock struck zero and the Tide had a 70-67 victory.
In the second half the Tide again shot 35% on 11-32 shooting, INCLUDING 0-15 from three point range, and made 15-24 from the charity stripe. For the game, the Tide was 21-61 for 34%, 7-34 for 20% (!) and 21-32 for 66% from the free throw line. The team had 44 rebounds, including 19 on the offensive end, had six assists, 10 steals, three blocks, and committed 17 turnovers. The Tigers shot 11-27 for 41% in the second, including 5-11 from deep and made 8-12 free throws. In the game LSU was 24-56 for 43%, 10-22 for 46% from three, and 9-15 from the free throw line. LSU had 36 rebounds, only nine on the offensive end, six assists, seven steals, seven blocks, and had 20 turnovers.
Individually, Shackelford was the big gun with 26 points on 7-18 shooting with 3-10 from deep, with four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Quinerly responded with new energy coming off the bench and added 17 points. Ellis was the only other double digit scorer with 12 points and led the team with eight rebounds. Gurley won the team's hard hat award and scored six points with seven rebounds. James Rojas played in his second game of the year and brought the toughness and effort this group has missed. Rojas played just over nine minutes and didn't light up the stat sheet, but his contribution was much needed. Darius Miles continued his strong bench play with five points and six rebounds in 25 minutes. Juwan Gary again played under 10 minutes, but this time it was because of injury and not foul trouble. Gary got hit in the face and Oats said “Juwan has a face contusion and will have XRays and an MRI in the morning before we know how bad it is.”
Oats was optimistic in his team's play and said that “we are going to keep on shooting the threes, we make them we win by a lot, we don't, and we play with the energy and toughness that we want, we will win close games.” Oats continued that “we need to get our swagger back like we had last year, where we went into games knowing we were going to win because we were going to do all the little things you need to do to win.” The third year coach said “we are there, we just have to piece it together for 40 minutes, not 20, not 32, but 40, our wins are good, but our losses are bad. We need to be coaching adjustments, not effort. Effort has to come from the players.”
This was another high quality win for the Tide over a ranked team. To pull out the win despite the terrible shooting shows that Oats and the coaching staff got the teams attention in practice this week. Oats did not hesitate to pull a player out of the game at the first sign of lazy play, whether it was not blocking out or not playing hard on defense. This game was won with pluck and grit with a big dose of Jaden Shackelford going to the hole.
IF the team can every start hitting from long range, they really can be dangerous, but it has been 10 games since that has happened. Entering tonight the Tide was 245th in the country and 12th in the SEC in three point percentage at 31 percent overall, but only 26% in conference.
Next up is the quick turn around game with the Missouri Tigers. Mizzu just beat the Tide 11 days ago in the worst loss of the season for Bama. The game will be at home at 5 p.m. CT and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Roll Tide Roll