The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team gutted out a 86-76 win over Missouri on Saturday night, to avenge a loss from their first meeting. Bama fell behind by 14 in each half, but finished strong and pulled out the victory. The Tide improved to 13-6 overall and 4-3 in the league while the Tigers fell to 8-10 overall and 2-4 in the league.
Coach Nate Oats shook up the starting lineup, going with Noah Gurley, Darius Miles, JD Davison, Jaden Shackelford, and Keon Ellis. Juwan Gary missed the game with the facial injury he suffered Wednesday night in the LSU game. The new lineup didn't click, and the team quickly fell behind 14-3. Oats inserted Jusaun Holt, James Rojas, and 5th year senior walk on Britton Johnson into the game. Johnson got three offensive rebounds and a basket in his 2 minutes and 40 seconds of action, more importantly he showed the other players how important it is to play hard or you will be benched. This was only the fourth game Johnson has played in all year, eight total minutes on the season.
With 12 minutes left in the half Missouri led by a 19-7 margin and the Tide was 1-10 from three point range at that point, after being 0-15 in the second half vs LSU. Ellis drilled a long range jumper to ignite a run that saw Bama tie the game at 25 with 5:17 remaining. The Tigers regrouped and led the game 40-36 at the break. In the half Bama shot 11-34 for 32%, including 5-18 for 28% from three and made 9-14 free throws for 64%. Shackelford had 10 points while Gurley, Davison, and Ellis had six each. Missouri shot a hot 17-34 in the half including 4-11 for 36% from three, and made both of their free throws.
Missouri came into the game as one of the worst three point shooting teams in the country, but you couldn't tell it by their performance. The Tigers hit several three point shots in succession to grab another 14 point advantage at 61-47 with 14 minutes left. Miles had an old fashioned three point play with 9:55 left to get the lead down to eight at 67-59. Ellis buried his third long range basket to draw within three at 69-66 with 7:19 remaining before Davison finally tied things up at 73 with 5:11 left. Rojas showed his toughness and tenacity by crashing the boards and tipping in a miss to finally put the Tide in front at 75-73. Davison added two free throws, followed by another Rojas tip in for a 79-73 lead with 2:38 on the clock. The Tigers kept their hopes alive with a long three with 1:38 left, but Shackelford buried a three on a bullet pass from Jahvon Quinerly. From there the Tide hit 4-6 free throws to push the margin to 86-76 as the clock ran out.
In the second half Bama shot 17-30 for 56% including 4-9 from three and made 12-15 free throws. Overall the team was 28-64 for 44%, 9-27 for 33% from deep, and 21-29 for 72% from the stripe. The Tide finished with 44 rebounds, 23 of them offensive, 14 assists, seven steals, five blocks, and had 11 turnovers. Shackelford led the way with 21 points on 5-16 shooting, had seven rebounds, a plus/minus of +8, and won the hard hat award for the game.
Davison had one of his better games with 17 points, making 3-4 three pointers, and had four rebounds, two assists, and a plus/minus of +9. Quinerly tossed in 13 points, dished nine assists, had five rebounds, and a plus/minus of +11. Ellis had nine on 3-4 three pointers, three rebounds, three steals and a team high of +18. Miles contributed seven points and four boards while fighting foul trouble and a wrist injury and finished +13. Rojas provided 12 tough minutes and had six points and six rebounds. All of Rojas’s points came on put backs of misses and he was +9 on the game. Johnson tied with Gurley, Ellis, and Rojas for the team lead in offensive rebounds with three.
Missouri was 14-31 in the second, 7-13 from three, and 1-3 from the line. Overall the Tigers shot 31-65 for 48%, 11-24 for 46% from deep, and 3-5 on free throws. Mizzou had 30 rebounds, 13 assists, seven steals, four blocks and committed 11 turnovers. Kobe Brown, who scorched the Tide for 30 points and 15 rebounds in the first meeting, was held to six points and 10 rebounds on Saturday.
After the game Oats said “I’m proud of the team for their resiliency and toughness to fight back” but that “we need to figure out how to play hard for all 40 minutes regardless of the opponent.” Oats went on to explain that he couldn't really play Charles Bediako - just eight minutes in the game - because “they don't play anyone that he can guard” and also said that “their style just matches up well with what we do.” When asked about the thinking of inserting the seldom used Johnson the coach said “ BJ plays hard and you always know he is going to do what you ask him to do.” Oats said that he deserved a chance to play and that it also sent a message to the other guys on “how to play hard.” Oats was proud of Rojas and said that he brings the toughness and energy to the floor that the team needs, and that “his minutes probably need to go up going forward.”
This might not be a “good” win but it sure would have been a terrible loss. This team’s penchant for playing up or down to their competition needs to stop. You have to give Oats credit for using the bench as incentive. Pushing the defense to three-quarter court was a big part of the team being able to come back. Despite some foul trouble Ellis did a great job of pressuring the ball the last 10 minutes of the game. Oats explained that another defensive key was the switching on everyone and cutting down on the Tigers’ points in the paint during the second half. Missouri had 22 paint points in the first half and 14 in the second.
Next up is a road trip to Athens to play the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is on Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. CT and will be on the SEC Network. The Tide needs to build on the last two wins because the next three games after Georgia are Baylor at home, Auburn on the road, and Kentucky at home. Yikes.