In front of a raucous Coleman Coliseum crowd, the Crimson Tide defeated 4th ranked Baylor by a score of 87-78 on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.
In defeating the defending National Champions the Tide has now defeated three of the teams that were in the Final Four last year. Alabama improved to 14-7 while Baylor fell to 18-3. Bama has now defeated teams that were ranked 1st, 4th, 7th, 14th, and 19th at the time of the game.
Coach Nate Oats switched up the starting lineup again, returning Jahvon Quinerly to the first five along with Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, Charles Bediako, and James Rojas. Oats said before the game he told the team “three F’s, be focused, fly around, and have fun” going on to say that “winning is a lot more fun than losing.”
The Tide started the game unlike they have played the last month or so, with tons of energy. In fact, ‘Bama did a lot of the things right that had been plaguing the Crimson Tide since the Holidays.
Instead of falling behind by double digits out of the gate, the team took an early lead and held it for most of the game. The Bears led on three different occasions in the game, but never by more than two points. Alabama was scrappy on defense and the boards, for all forty minutes. The Tide did not hesitate to dive on the floor. It was quite refreshing to see what happens when you go all out for the whole of the game.
Quinerly finally found his three-point shot, and made a couple to help the Tide forge a lead at 29-22 with 5:10 left in the half. Oats mentioned that the teams Sports Psychologist met with Jahvon during the week and also that JQ’s dad came into town. Oats said that Quinlery “has been putting a lot of pressure on himself, but seemed to be in a better frame of mind tonight.”
With 2:22 left in the first frame, Baylor took what would be their final lead of the night, 30-29. But the Tide closed out the half strong, and led 38-34 at the break. At half, Alabama had shot 14-27 for 52%, and though they were perfect at the stripe (7-of-7), Bama was still cold from the perimeter, going 3-13 (23%). Baylor was 10-22 for 46% with 4-8 from three and 10-13 from the stripe. Quinerly had 12 points and three assists as the team went to the locker room for the break.
In the second half, Juwan Gary joined Shackelford, Ellis, Quinerly, and Bediako as starters. The Tide kept up their intensity and built a 50-40 margin with 13:50 left when Ellis got a steal and a fast break dunk. Gary cleaned up a shot on the boards, and Ellis added a three-pointer for a 57-42 lead just two minutes later.
However, Baylor isn't in the top five and defending National Champions for nothing, they battled back and cut the lead to 65-60 with 7:47 left. Quinerly then hit a three-pointer and followed with an old fashioned three-point play to push the tide to a 71-62 margin with 6:50 left.
Baylor kept battling, banked an ugly three-point shot to cut the lead 72-66 with five minutes remaining. Shackelford then made his first three-pointer of the night for a 75-66 lead. Again Baylor fought their way back, and had cut the score to 75-71 with four minutes left.
The Tide didn't fold and used two plays by JD Davison to push it back out. Davison drove the lane for a hoop then made a steal and a length of the court highlight reel dunk that brought the crowd to near eruption. Davison then drained a three with a little over a minute left for a 84-75 lead that sealed the deal for the Tide with a 87-78 victory.
In the second half, Bama blistered the nets to the tune of 15-22 for 68%, including 4-8 from deep and made 15-19 free throws. For the game the Tide was 29-49 for 59%, 7-21 from deep for 33% and a big 22-26 for 85% from the charity stripe. The team finished with 29 rebounds, 16 assists, 10 steals, three blocks, and committed 15 turnovers. Baylor shot 16-34 for 47% in the half including 5-11 from deep and made 7-9 free throws. The Bears finished 26-56 for 46%, 9-19 for 47% from three, and 17-22 for 77% from the stripe. Baylor had 25 rebounds, 11 assists, eight steals, two blocks, and committed 16 turnovers.
Individually, Shackelford won the hard hat award finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals, had a +/- of +15, and committed only one turnover (despite only being 1-7 from deep). Quinerly broke out of his funk, and finished with 20 points on 6-10 shooting, 3-6 from three, adding five assists and two steals. Gary had a very efficient 15 points on 7-8 shooting and was also +15 in the game. All of Gary’s hoops came on slashes to the basket and put-backs of missed shots. Davison had one of his better outings, with 14 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals, and a block. Despite only taking four shots Keon Ellis added 11 points with a +11 mark. Noah Gurley only had four points and three rebounds but tied the team lead with a +15.
Oats was very complimentary of the sellout crowd saying they gave the team a lot of energy and said that he “told the kids to get back to having fun,” and that “this environment was fun to coach in.” Oats was pleased with the defense for the first 30 minutes but said Baylor took advantage of some things the last 10 minutes, and added that “Baylor is the only team in the country that is in the top 10 in offense and defensive efficiency in the country.”
What a win!
This Baylor team is legit and will most likely win the Big 12 and be a high seed come tournament time. The Tide showed what they can do when the play hard for 40 minutes.
Despite still not shooting great from three-point range the team gutted out a win by playing defense, pounding the boards, and shooting 74% from two-point range, while attempting much fewer-three point shots than is typical for the team. Slashing to basket gave this team a scoring dimension that has been missing in the Tide’s month-long funk
Up next the murderer’s row schedule continues, as the Tide travels to the Plains to take on the No. 1 Auburn Tigers on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be shown on ESPN. Time to build on a good performance and finish strong.