The 18th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team improved to 5-0 on the young season by taking down 12th ranked Michigan State 81-70 in Portland, Oregon in the Phil Knight Invitational.
Coach Nate Oats beat his mentor, Tom Izzo, in the first meeting of their careers after Oats worked Izzo’s camps as a high school coach in Michigan a decade ago. The Tide stuck with their same starting five of Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, and Nimari Burnett in the contest.
The Tide started off hot and built an early 8-2 lead. The Spartans battled back with defense and toughness to take a lead of 21-15 with 8:13 left in the half. With 6:28 remaining State led 25-21 and had made 9-9 free throws while the Tide had not a single free throw attempt. Miller took over, scoring 11 points over the last five minutes, including a long three at the buzzer to give Bama a lead of 42-37 at the break. Miller had 17 points as the teams headed to the locker room, with Clowney next in line at nine points and four rebounds.
In the first half the Tide shot 16-33 for 48%, including 4-11 for 36% from three point range and made 6-7 free throws. MSU shot 13-29 for 45% in the first with 0-8 from deep, but stayed in the game with 11-14 from the charity stripe for 79%.
Oats sent out the same starters for the second half and quickly built on their lead. Burnett and Miller hit early three pointers and the lead was 50-41 with 17:10 left in the game. Jahvon Quinerly had a nice spurt with an old fashioned three point play on a drive and a free throw followed by a long range three. With 12 minutes on the clock the Tide led 60-49.
Another three for Burnett pushed the margin to 67-49 with 9:08 left. Miller drew his third foul and was replaced by Nick Pringle. State went on a 7-0 run to cut the score to 67-56 with 7:29 left. The Spartans kept fighting and got the margin under double digits a few times down the stretch before Noah Gurley hit four straight free throws to give the Tide some breathing room.
In the second half Bama shot 12-30 for 40% with 4-12 from three and 11-17 from the free throw line. Overall the Tide finished 28-63 for 44%, 8-23 from three for 33% and 17-24 for 70% from the free throw line. The team finished with 40 rebounds, dished out 19 assists, blocked five shots, had six steals, and only 10 turnovers. State shot 11-33 in the second half with 4-6 from deep and made 11-17 free throws. Overall MSU shot only 38% on 24-62 from the field and 28% from three on 4-14. The Spartans were 18-25 from the free throw line. For the first time this season Alabama lost the battle of the boards as MSU grabbed 42 rebounds, with nine assists, 11 turnovers, five blocks, and five steals.
Per usual Miller led the way with 24 points with nine rebounds, and two blocked shots. Miller shot only 8-19 in the game but made four of seven three point attempts. Gurley had a nice night with 12 points and four rebounds while making 4-4 from the free throw line to close out the game. Clowney scored 10 points with six rebounds, three assists, and a block. Quinerly looks to be rounding into form and also had double figures with 10 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Bediako and Burnett both scored eight points while Sears tossed in seven and tied for the team lead in assists. He and Jaden Bradley had five each. Tyson Walker scored 21 for Michigan State and was joined in double figures by AJ Hoggard with 18.
This is very good win against a strong opponent that will be a resume builder in March. The Tide’s length, depth, and defensive intensity will carry them far. Miller led the team with 35 minutes played and seven others played between 17-26 minutes. Rylan Griffen only logged eight minutes after playing around 20 minutes per game in the first four contests.
Next up is Connecticut who blasted host Oregon on Thursday, and we will have a report on the Huskies tomorrow. The game will be at 8:30 C.T. and shown on ESPN. Jump on the bandwagon while there is still room. This Tide team should go far!