Nate Oats and his 8th ranked Crimson Tide basketball team went on the road and defeated the top-ranked Houston Cougars in a thrilling 71-65 game on Saturday. This is the second number one ranked team Bama has defeated in the last two weeks, the other one North Carolina 103-101 in four overtimes on November 27th. Turns out that this is kind of a big deal.
. @AlabamaMBB is the 2nd team in the HISTORY of the AP poll to beat two different #1 teams in the same regular season! UNREAL.— Jamie Hale (@JamieHaleSports) December 10, 2022
Bama used toughness, grittiness, defense, and rebounding to take down the Cougars. This game was a rock fight and the Tide toughed it out for the victory.
Oats sent out his normal starting lineup of Brandon Miller, Mark Sears, Nimari Burnett, Noah Clowney, and Charles Bediako. Clowney made a three-pointer to open the scoring, which was very minimal for the majority of the half. Both teams play physical basketball and great defense, but go about it a little differently. Houston has more of a bully mentality while the Tide uses their length and athleticism to their advantage.
Burnett made a three with 15:49 left to give the Tide a 9-4 lead. Miller was ice cold, 0-7 in the half, and the team’s turnovers bugaboo kept biting them in the butt. With 10 minutes left the Tide had 18 possessions and nine turnovers. Missed free throws became a problem and kept the Tide, along with turnovers, from leading at the break as Houston went into the locker room with a lead of 31-27.
In the first half the Tide shot 9-28 for 32% including 4-13 for 30% from deep while making only 5-11 free throws. They grabbed 26 rebounds with five assists against 12 big turnovers, many unforced. Houston shot 13-33 for 39% including 1-5 from three point range and 4-6 free throws. The Cougars had 18 rebounds, five assists, and only three turnovers. Clowney had eight points and six rebounds while the superstar Miller was held scoreless.
The Tide started the same five in the second half. Uncharacteristically, Houston hit a couple of early three point shots and all of a sudden the margin was 36-29 with 18:27 left. With 17 minutes left things looked to be getting out of hand, as the Cougars built a lead of 44-29. Bama did not panic and slowly but surely worked their way back into the game.
Jaden Bradley took over at the point and made things happen, driving to the hoop and scoring or dishing for an assist. Rylan Griffen hit a three with 11:46 left to cut the lead to 47-41 then Sears followed with another at the 11:05 mark for 49-44 game. Bradley made a highlight dunk with 8:02 left, and Miller finally got on the board when he was fouled on a three point attempt, making two, for a 58-55 deficit with 7:30 remaining.
At this point Oats was playing his four freshmen: Miller, Clowney, Bradley, and Griffen, along with Sears. Going small allowed the Tide to drive the lane with greater success. Sears hit a three from the top of the key with 2:52 left to take the lead at 63-62. With 1:11 left Clowney cleaned up a miss with an offensive rebound and a hoop for the 65-63 lead. Miller made six of six free throws in the last minute to seal the deal for the Tide.
The Tide improved to 13-26 from the field for 50% including only 3-10 from three point range. The free throws were better at 15-21 for 71%. The team had 19 rebounds, four assists, and cut their turnovers down to only three. Overall Bama finished 22-54 for 40%. 7-23 from three for 30% and 20-32 for 62% from the free throw lane. The Tide finished with 45 rebounds, nine assists, and 15 turnovers. Houston shot 12-31 in the second for 39% with 2-8 from deep and 8-16 from the line. The Cougars had 20 rebounds, two assists, and seven turnover. Overall UH shot 25-64 for 39%, 3-13 for 23% from three and only 12-2 at the line for 55%. Houston had 38 rebounds, seven assists, and 10 turnovers.
Individually Clowney led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes of play. Bradley had his best game in Crimson with 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, and no turnovers in 25 minutes. Sears scored 11 with four rebounds and two assists. Burnett had eight points but his biggest contribution was his defense on All American Marcus Sasser. Miller did not make a field goal but made 8-9 clutch free throws with five rebounds. Jamal Shead lead the Cougars with 19 points.
Oats was thrilled with the victory, saying Houston was the number one team in the country by all metrics as well as in the polls. The coach was complimentary of Clowney, Bradley, and Griffen, and said that despite his tough day Miller “came through with clutch free throws down the stretch.” Clowney was named the player of the game and the whole team won the hard hat award.
What a team win! With Miller struggling Clowney and Bradley stepped up in a big way. Bradley made a push for more minutes going forward with his tough, under control, play in a hostile environment. Nine players played double digit minutes and Nick Pringle came off the bench for eight tough minutes. Things don't get any easier as Memphis is next up on the schedule. The Tigers come to Coleman on Tuesday night for an 8 p.m. tip. The game will be shown on ESPN2 and will be followed by a game with Gonzaga on Saturday in Birmingham.