The Crimson Tide came in flying high off of consecutive wins over number one Houston and a tough Memphis team, but couldn't handle Drew Timme and company, losing 100-90 to the Gonzaga Zags on Saturday afternoon. Bama fell to 9-2 on the year while the Zags improved to 9-3. Gonzaga is a big, tough, veteran team and proved to be too much for the Tide in the annual CM Newton Classic, played at Legacy Arena in Birmingham.
Coach Nate Oats used the starting lineup of Brandon Miller, Mark Sears, Noah Clowney, Charles Bediako, and Jaden Bradley for the second straight game. Bradley is filling in for the injured Nimari Burnett.
The Tide started out hot and jumped out to a 14-5 lead after the first four minutes. Bradley made an old fashioned three point play to start the scoring and Miller followed with a pair from long range. Clowney added another three and the Tide had the 14-5 margin before you knew it. Gonzaga, in particular Timme. With 10:40 left Gonzaga took their first lead at 23-22, which they never relinquished. The Tide was able to keep things close at the free throw line and were down only one at 43-42 with 2:50 remaining. The Zags scored the last four of the half to lead 47-42 at the break.
Bama shot 13-29 for 45% in the first including just 4-15 from three for 27%, but made 12-14 free throws for 86%. Bradley had 12 points and Miller 10 after the first half. Gonzaga shot 20-43 for 47% including only 3-11 from deep for 27% and 4-7 from the free throw line. Timme knocked down 16 points with five rebounds.
The same starters came out for the second half. Bradley scored on a layup to open up the half before Miller went crazy, hitting two long three pointers plus a steal and a slam to keep the Tide within three at 57-54 with 16:13 left in the game. Unfortunately Timme, Anton Watson, Julian Stawther, and Nolan Hickman answered every time. With 14:56 left the lead had stretched out to nine points.
Clowney answered with a three point play and Miller drained another long range shot to make the score 66-63 with 13:39 left. Bama turnovers contributed as Gonzaga broke through to add onto their lead, reaching an 11 point difference at 77-66 with 10:16 left. Miller single-handedly was keeping the Tide in the game, but 88-82 with 4:48 left was as close as they could get. The Zags took advantage of turnovers and soft defense in the lane keep a 10 point lead over the last three minutes and won 100-90.
Alabama shot 18-31 for 58% in the second half, 4-10 from three and 8-10 from the line. Overall the Tide was 31-60 for 52%, 8-25 from three for 32% and a sparkling 20-24 for 83% from the free throw stripe. Bama finished with 37 rebounds. 11 assists, three steals, three blocks, and a miserable 21 turnovers.
The Tide had no answer for the Zag offense in the second half as the visitors shot an unworldly 20-27 for 72% from the field, 4-6 from three and 9-12 at the line. Overall Gonzaga shot 40-70 for 57%, 7-17 from three for 41% and 13-19 from the line for 68%. The Zags had 30 rebounds, 16 assists, 12 steals, one block, and only nine turnovers.
Individually Miller put on a show for the national television audience, scoring 36 points on 12-22 shooting from the field with 6-11 from three and 6-6 from the free throw line. Miller also added six rebounds. Most of Miller’s help came from Bradley with his 18 points and four assists. Bradley was able to get in the lane and score at the rim, and made 6-12 field goals plus all six of his free throw attempts. Clowney never got going offensively but scored nine points on only four shots and led the game with 13 rebounds. Rylan Griffen tossed in eight points in only nine minutes of play and Bediako contributed six points and six rebounds. Gonzaga had six players in double digits with the All American Timme scoring 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Watson added 17 and Hickman 11.
Poor defense and turnovers. Scoring 90 points should be enough for the Tide to win most games they play. Today it wasn't. With Burnett out for 6-8 weeks after his wrist surgery the team lost their best perimeter defender, and a secondary ball handler, and that has hurt in the last two games. The careless turnovers have been an issue all season and must be addressed. In Timme, the Tide faced at multi year All American that is a smart, skilled, big man. The Zags used an array of floaters in the lane to score the majority of their points. Gonzaga scored 50 in the paint and seven off second chance opportunities. Some of the Tide’s three point shooters needed to step up and help Miller. The freshman super star had six of the team’s eight made long range shots. Sears was only 1-6, and Clowney had the only other make at 1-2.
The Birmingham jinx
The Tide has played several games in Birmingham over the last several years, losing to Clemson, Texas, Oregon, and Davidson, while winning only against Samford. My feeling has always been that games belong on campus. So often the marquee out of conference game of the year is taken away from the season ticket holders and played in Birmingham. The narrative is always that the students are out of town and you want get a good crowd.
Tuesday night, the Memphis game was an 8 p.m. tip and school was out, and there was a great crowd. The student turnout was even very good. On a Saturday with a team of the ilk of Gonzaga in town, Coleman would be packed also - school in session or not. The comparisons made are apples and oranges. “Bama played Jacksonville State (or any random lower level team) in December and the crowd was awful.” Try bringing Texas, Clemson, UCLA, Oklahoma, etc to town and see what happens.
Time to bounce back on Tuesday night when Jackson State comes to town for a 6:00 p.m. tip on a game that will be shown on the SEC Network. Conference play will start on December 28 with at road trip to Starkville to take on the surprising Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Merry Christmas and Roll Tide #BlueCollarBasketball