The Crimson Tide basketball team dug an early hole, battled back to tie, but ran out of gas and got walloped at the hands of Connecticut by a score of 82-67 on Friday night. Bama fell to 5-1 while the Huskies improved to 7-0. UConn appears to be underrated at 20th in the latest poll. Alabama plays next on Sunday when they take on surprise loser North Carolina in the third place game of the Phil Knight Invitational.
Coach Nate Oats kept the same starting five of Brandon Miller, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Nimari Burnett. The game started with both teams unable to make a basket or keep possession of the basketball. Several blocked shots and turnovers occurred in the first three minutes. Bediako finally made a hoop and free throw to notch the first points of the game, but the Tide wouldn’t lead for long.
Sloppy play plagued Bama over the first several minutes of the half but somehow the teams were tied 10-10 with 12:26 remaining. The Tide had nine turnovers by that point, most of the unforced variety. With 8:39 on the clock the Huskies had scored 14 straight points and led 24-10. U Conn was physically dominating the Tide, driving to the basket with impunity and blocking or altering most of the shots from Bama players.
Miller and fellow freshman Rylan Griffen both hit a pair of three point baskets to help mount a comeback and cut the lead to 35-30 at the half. Bama shot 10-23 for 43% in the first including 4-6 from three point range and 6-6 on free throws, however 16 big turnovers doomed the Tide. Bama had 17 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks, and four steals. Connecticut shot 13-32 for 40% including 5-14 for 36% from three and made 4-6 free throws. The Huskies committed 10 turnovers of the own in the period and had 16 rebounds, eight assists, five steals, and three blocks.
The Tide used the same staring five for the second half and were able to draw within two points a couple of times. Oats drew a technical foul with 18 minutes left which gave the Huskies two free throws-which they made- and the ball. Suddenly the deficit was seven at 39-32.
Bama kept battling and drew even at 44-44 with 13:19 left after Jaden Bradley knocked down a pair of free throws. With 7:16 in the game the Connecticut lead was 56-53, and that is when things really went bad. A 21-4 run put the score at 71-54 with three minutes left and that was all she wrote. Miller added a couple of late baskets but too little too late led to a 82-67 shellacking.
Alabama shot 11-27 in the second half with 2-10 from deep and 13-19 from the line with 13 rebounds, three assists, one block, no steals, and five turnovers. Overall Bama finished 21-50 for 42%, 6-16 for 37% from deep, 19-25 for 76% at the free throw line with 35 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, six blocks, and 21 turnovers. The Huskies shot 13-28 in the second half with 4-10 from deep, 17-18 from the charity stripe and 16 rebounds. Overall U Conn shot 26-60 for 43%, 9-24 for 38% from three and a strong 21-24 for 88% from the line, with 32 rebounds, 18 assists, eight steals, seven blocks, and 12 turnovers.
Individually Miller again led the Tide with 18 points and nine rebounds, with three assists, and two blocks. The star freshman shot 5-15 from the field, 3-6 from three and made 5-7 free throws. Tonights game was the first of the season that Miller didn't score at least 20 points. Bradley came on strong, scoring at the rim, and finished with 12 points and four assists. Clowney added nine points and four rebounds with a couple of steals and a block. Sears added eight points.
The Tide was physically overmatched for the first time all season. The Huskies bullied their way to success down low and hit enough deep shots to losen things up. Adama Sanogo, a 6’9” 250 pound beast had his way down low despite the best efforts of Bediako, Clowney, Noah Gurley, and Nick Pringle. Sanogo finished with 25 points to lead all scorers.
Turnovers and poor shooting helped dig a huge hole for the Tide however they were able to battle back and make a game of it at the half. The run in the second half to tie the game gave the team a chance to pull off a big victory, but they couldn’t ever quite get over the hump and faded down the stretch.
A good learning experience for a team that may have been feeling themselves a little bit after Thursday’s victory over Michigan State. The turnovers need to be addressed and Miller needs the ball in his hands more. At times several possessions would go without the superstar freshman putting his hands on the ball. The more touches the better for a player of his magnitude. Bradley has worked his way back from injury to have the look of a very good point guard. Dividing ball handling duties with Sears and Jahvon Quinerly will need to be figured out going forward.
The Tide plays North Carolina, an upset loser to Iowa State on Friday, on Sunday in the third place game. We will have a report on Sunday with the game time and how to find the game on television. Time to bounce back!