It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty but the 4th ranked Crimson Tide battled and held on to defeat the Memphis Tigers 91-88 on Tuesday night. The tough, veteran, Memphis team gave the home team all they wanted, but Bama prevailed in the in. The Tigers have 11 players on their roster listed as either senior, redshirt senior, or graduate student. The Tide revenged their loss in Memphis last year and improved to 9-1 on the season, while the Tigers fell to 8-3.
Before the game it was learned that starting guard Nimari Burnett injured his wrist in the Houston game and had surgery to repair the damage. Coach Nate Oats said the timetable looks to be 6-8 weeks for return. Assistant coach Bryan Hodgson also missed the game with an illness.
Oats replaced Burnett in the starting lineup with Jaden Bradley, joining Mark Sears, Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, and Charles Bediako. The Tigers started off fast with a 6-0 lead after the first two minutes. The game remained low scoring, and Memphis held a lead of 11-10 with 11:50 left in the half. The Tide finally took their first lead with 8:32 left when Sears made an old fashioned three point play for a 19-17 lead. Miller made his first basket since the South Dakota State game, a three with 4:50 left for a 27-23 Bama advantage. Sears and Jahvon Quinerly both hit from long range and the game went to the half with Bama ahead 36-33.
The Tide shot 12-28 for 43% in the half including 4-14 for 29% from three point range. Shooting only 8-14 from the free throw line, with a couple of those the front end of 1-1’s, hurt Bama in the period. The Tide also committed nine turnovers, had nine assists, 24 rebounds, four blocks and one steal. Sears tallied 12 points while Noah Gurley and Miller both had five rebounds. Memphis shot 13-37 for 35%, 0-2 from deep, and 7-8 from the line. The Tigers had 19 rebounds, two blocks, six steals, four assisters, and four turnovers. Kendric Davis had DeAndre Williams had eight points each for Memphis.
Oats stayed with the same starters in the second half. Throughout the half the Tide looked like they might put the game away but the Tigers, led by Davis, would answer to keep themselves within striking distance. Quinerly and Bradley hit three point shots, Bradley’s sans his shoe, and the Tide led 55-48 with 12:14 left. Davis continued to hit an assortment of step back fade away jumpers and tied the game at 57-57 with 9:30 left.
Miller nailed a three, then two free throws, to push the Tide up by five at 62-57 with just under nine minutes left. Another long range bomb from Miller gave Bama breathing room at 67-60 with 7:15 left. When Sears got fouled on a three point attempt and made all three free throws, things looked comfortable at 71-62 with 5:49 left. Each time Davis would answer.
Miller had another five point run of his own with a made three and two free throws and the Tide led 82-73 with 1:05 left. That was the longest 1:05 on record. Clowney had a dunk on a breakaway with 54 seconds left and the Tide led by nine at 84-75. Miller and Clowney both made two free throws, but Memphis kept on matching. Darius Miles made two from the line for a seemingly comfortable 90-83 lead with 15 seconds on the clock. After a Memphis basket Sears made 1-2 from the line with 11 seconds left. Memphis then hit their only three point basket of the game for the final margin at 91-88. The Tide had issues inbounding the ball all night, but with 0.6 seconds left they got the ball to Miller and the clock ran out.
In the second half Bama shot 14-26 for 54%, 6-13 from deep for 46%, and 21-26 from the line for 81%. Overall the Tide finished 26-54 for 48%, 10-27 for 37% from three, and 29-40 for 73% from the charity stripe. Bama finished with 42 rebounds-10 on the offensive boards- 17 assists, 19 turnovers, four steals, and seven blocks. Individually Miller led the way with 24 points on 7-13 shooting including 4-8 from three and 6-7 from the line. Miller stuffed the stat sheet with eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Sears added 18 points with 9-13 from the free throw line with two steals and a block. Clowney just missed a double-double with 11 points and a team leading nine rebounds. Bradley made it four in double figures with 10 points with five assists. Bediako adds six points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Miles played 13 big minutes and contributed seven points, five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in his most extended action of the season. Quinerly scored seven and dished five assists, and Noah Gurley also had seven points with five rebounds.
Memphis shot 21-42 in the second with 1-10 from three point range and 12-17 from the line. Overall the Tigers finished 34-79 for 43%, 1-12 for 8% from three, and 19-25 for 76% from the line. MU had 39 rebounds, 10 assist, 13 steals, two blocks, and only 10 turnovers. Davis could not be stopped in the second half and finished with 30 points and five assists in 37 minutes of play.
After the game Oats said that the Tide didn't play their best “but still got the win.” Oats also said of the tough schedule “we didn't schedule too many cupcakes for a reason, and our guys are showing up.” Oats said the Burnett injury was similar to Herb Jones a couple of years ago, but would be out longer than Jones because of the type player they are. Whereas Jones could wear a cast on his hand (and still grab 17 rebounds in a game) Burnett is more of a shooting guard making it hard to play with a cast. Oats said when Burnett can graduate to a brace then he can return to action. The Tide is still missing Dom Welch who has yet to play in a game this season.
This was a gutty win for the Tide coming off their victory over number one Houston on Saturday. Miller shook off his poor game from Saturday and a quiet first half tonight to lead the team. Oats played nine players double digit minutes in the game, led by Miller’s 33. A big hat tip to Davis for the Tigers. His game was reminiscent of Ja Morant’s visit to Coleman with Murray State a few years ago.
The gauntlet continues on Saturday when the Tide takes on 15th ranked Gonzaga in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. The game will tip at 12 noon C.T. and will be shown on CBS. The game is a hard sellout.