The Alabama Crimson Tide came out smoking on Saturday night, lost focus for a while, and then had a late spurt, to defeat South Dakota State 78-65. The Jackrabbits played a game last night in Ohio, and probably didn't have their legs under them. Bama improved to 7-1 while SDSU fell to 3-5 on the season.
This was probably not the 40 minutes of “maturity” basketball Coach Oats wanted to see, but 25 minutes of focus was enough to put down the ‘Jacks. And, when SDSU clawed their way to a one-point lead, the defensive intensity returned. Still, it is bad precedent to set for this team to think it can take any nights off or that they can turn it on when necessary.
Maturity did show up late; we’ve seen many of these second-half implosions result in bad losses over the last few years. And, at the end of the day, ‘Bama hung a 13-point L on SDSU (comparable to Arkansas’s 15-point win), in a game that it will likely look better in February than in December.
Coach Nate Oats stuck with his usual starting lineup of Mark Sears, Brandon Miller, Charles Bediako, Nimari Burnett, and — surprisingly, Noah Clowney. Clowney had a scary fall in the Tide’s last game against North Carolina and was listed as a game time decision. Fortunately for ‘Bama, Clowney was able to answer the bell and led the team to victory.
Clowney in particular came out smoking for a Crimson Tide team that came out hot. After making only 2 of his first 16 three-point baskets this year, Clowney made his first four shots, all from deep, to stake Bama to a quick 12-4 lead in the first three minutes of the game. Oats substituted liberally and the Tide kept pouring it on. Rylan Griffen hit from deep, followed by a make from Miller and two from Sears. Sears nailed three in a row on consecutive possessions, including a long banked-in triple.
The lead swelled to 37-17 with 6:36 remaining in the half.
The Jackrabbits started chipping away at the lead with a nice array of step-back, fade away jumpers from in the lane. Dakota was able to cut the lead to 42-35 at the break. Clowney had 14 first half points while Sears added 11. Bama cooled off after their sizzling start and shot 16-36 for 44% in the stanza, including 9-21 for 43% from three while making their only free throw attempt of the half. The Tide had 22 rebounds, 13 assists, two blocks, two steals, and only four turnovers. The Jackrabbits shot 14-30 for 47%, 5-13 for 39% from three, and 2-3 from the line. SDSU had 15 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks, three steals, and also only four turnovers.
The same starters came out for the second-half tip. Miller hit a three off the opening tip to forge a 10 point lead. However the Jackrabbits continued to chip away and eventually took the lead at 51-50 with 11:33 left in the game. In the first nine minutes of the half the Tide could manage only eight points. Burnett made a basket and free throw with 10:18 left to give Bama the lead back for good at 54-53.
Miller drained another long range basket to push the score to 59-55 with 7:55 remaining. Burnett flew through the lane and slammed home an emphatic dunk with 5:50 left for a 63-58 as the Tide started to slowly pull away. Clowney made his fifth shot from three point range with 4:13 left to make the lead nine and Bama made enough free throws down the stretch to push the final margin to 13.
The Tide cooled down considerably in the second half, shooting 11-32 for 34% with only 4-19 from three point range for 21%, while making 10-14 free throws. Overall Bama finished 27-68 for 40%, 13-40 from deep for 33%, and 11-15 from the charity stripe. The nations leading rebounding team had 45 boards, 15 on the offensive end, five blocks, five steals, 20 assists, and only 10 turnovers. South Dakota State was 12-32 for 39% in the half with 1-7 from three and 5-8 from the line. Overall the Rabitt’s finished 26-61 for 42%, 6-20 from deep for 30% and 7-11 for 63% on free throws. SDSU had 37 rebounds, nine assists, three blocks, six steals, and 11 turnovers.
Who Did What
Individually Clowney was the big gun with 22 points on 5-12 made three pointers, had nine rebounds, four assists, a steal, and drew four charges. The freshman from South Carolina was both player of the game and the winner of the teams hard hat award. Sears followed with 19 points, making 4-7 from deep, and had three assists. Miller had a steady 16 points and nine rebounds, shooting 3-8 from long range and 5-11 overall. Burnett added nine points even though he was 0-6 from deep. After his huge game against North Carolina, Bediako had a game more to his norm, four points, six rebounds and five blocked shots. Quinerly played 21 minutes and failed to score, missing all four of his shots, but dropped seven assists and grabbed five rebounds.
South Dakota State also had three players in double figures, Charlie Easley and Alex Arians with 17 each and Zeke Mayo with 12.
It would have been nice to see the Tide have a nice, easy game, in between playing former No. 1 North Carolina and current No. 1 Houston, but the Jackrabbits proved to be pesky. Oats called this a “maturity” game and his squad came out early showing plenty. With the early 20-point lead the team seemed to let up some, and it almost came back to bite them. The Tide was able to cut down on the turnovers and continued to share the ball by evidence of the 2-1 assist to turnover rate. The rebounding and defense remain strong, however the shooting does come and go.
Oats has said many times that they will win on defense, and three-point percentage will just determine the final score.
Next up is a trip to Houston to play the number one team in the land, the Houston Cougars on Saturday the 10th at 2 p.m. CT on ABC TV. The Tide won a thriller over the Cougars last season in Tuscaloosa.