The highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows. The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team has been good enough to beat then-#1 Gonzaga on the road and 7th ranked Houston at home, and bad enough to lose to the likes of Iona, Memphis, and the two worst teams in the SEC, Missouri and Georgia. A team that is supposed to be a sharp shooting team has become the gang that can't shoot straight. The Tide suffered a 82-76 loss to Georgia on Tuesday night in Athens. The win dropped Bama to 13-7 overall and 4-4 in the conference and UGA “improved” to 6-14 overall and 1-6 in the SEC.
Coach Nate Oats changed his starting lineup again, going with Keon Ellis, JD Davison, Jaden Shackelford, Charles Bediako, and James Rojas. The teams started off slowly and the game was back and forth early. The Tide led 14-13 with 12:43 left in the half. Oats brought walk-on Britton Johnson off the bench for the second game in a row and he did insert some energy to the team. Shackelford heated up and hit five three pointers over the remainder of the half to stake the Tide to a 42-36 lead at the break. Bama shot 13-26 in the half with 6-16 from three point range and made 6-9 free throws. Georgia was 13-27 and also 6-16 from three and 2-5 from the free throw line. Shackelford had 16 points on his seven shots, while Davison had five assists and Bediako had six points and six rebounds.
Noah Gurley started for Bediako in the second half and got abused in the first four minutes around the basket. Davison twice drove to the basket for hoops and drew a foul to help lead the Tide to a nine point advantage, 45-36. It took the Bulldogs three minutes to tie the game up after some sloppy play by Alabama. Seven minutes had gone by in the half before Shackelford, remember he of the 5-7 from deep in the first half, finally got to take a shot.
Ellis made a dunk on a fast break to put the Tide up 50-48 with 14:18 remaining in the game, spurring the Tide to a six point run that left the score at 54-48 with 12:59 left. At that point Darius Miles went down with a knee injury and had to be helped off the court, never to return. Shackelford finally got another shot attempt with 8:47 left and made his last three pointer of the game which gave the Tide a 62-58 margin at the time. On the next possession Ellis was hit in the side of the head by an elbow and left the game to go to concussion protocol, but did return with 5:30 left after checking out okay. Noah Gurley made an old fashioned three point play to give the Tide a 66-62 lead at that point, but Georgia then made six straight free throws and one jump shot to take a lead they never gave up. Bama could never get closer than four points down as a series of turnovers, missed shots, and wild three pointers doomed the team down the stretch. UGA continued to make free throws and held on for their first SEC win 82-76.
In the second half the Tide was a cold 12-34 for 35%, only 3-18 from three point range, and 7-11 from the stripe. Overall the total was 27-62 for 35%, a typical 9-34 for 26% from three, and 13-20 for 65% from the free throw line. Bama collected 41 rebounds, 16 offensive, had 18 assists, seven blocks, seven steals, and 19 turnovers. UGA was 12-28 in the second, with 2-6 from deep and a huge 20-23 on free throws. Overall the Dawgs finished 25-56 for 45%, 8-23 from three for 35% and 24-30 for 80% from the free throw line which won the game for them.
Individually Shackelford had 20 points on 6-10 shooting, with all of his makes from three point range. Ellis scored 15 and added nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Gurley scored 11 and grabbed six rebounds. Bediako scored eight and had eight rebounds in 21 minutes while Rojas also had eight and three boards. Davison scored seven with five rebounds and seven assists. Johnson played only seven minutes and had the best plus/minus on the team with +nine. Shackelford only having three field goal attempts in the half is almost criminal after being as hot as he was early.
There is nothing good to say about this one. The loss was the worst in the Ken Pom era which spans 20 years. The Bulldogs entered the contest scoring 69 points a game and notched 82 against the Tide’s poor defense. UGA had a NET of 231 and Bama was a 14 point favorite.
The team appears to lack leadership, toughness, the ability to shoot and a clue. This goes from the top down. Some blame has to be placed on the coaches. For whatever reason they haven’t been able to get through to the team that playing hard is not a choice but a necessity. The season has a chance to really spiral out of control with games against #4 Baylor, #1 Auburn, and #12 Kentucky coming up over the next week and a half. We will see what the team is made of as they try to navigate that murderers’ row. The Baylor game is at home on Saturday at 3 p.m and will be shown on ESPN.