Alabama Crimson Tide Basketball carried over Monday’s hot shooting and improved to 2-0 with a 102-80 victory over Indiana State on Friday night. ‘Bama had previously broken the century mark in its 105-73 demolition of Morehead State, despite being without all-everything Grant Nelson for most of the first half.
While the offense again looked nearly unstoppable, with Estrada and Jarin again shining, the Tide struggled the first half defending the perimeter, and after the break had issues stopping the well-coached Sycamores’ backdoor cuts to the rim.
Friday night’s win was the Tide’s 17th straight in Coleman Coliseum.
Coach Nate Oats sent out Aaron Estrada, Mark Sears, Grant Nelson, Rylan Griffen, and Nick Pringle as his starting five.
The Sycamores, behind some sharp shooting from Isaiah Swope, jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead before the Tide dented the scoreboard. Griffen knocked the lid off with a three-pointer, followed by three three-pointers in a row from Estrada to give ‘Bama a lead that they never relinquished. An old fashioned three-point play by freshman Jarin Stevenson put the exclamation point on a 15-0 run by the home team.
Indiana State battled back and retook the lead at 28-26 with 7:15 left in the first half. Estrada, Latrell Wrightsell Jr., and Stevenson all knocked down triples to give the Tide some breathing room. Nelson was hit over the eye, opening a gash that needed attention, and he missed most of the first half, only scoring two points before the break. Still, at the half Alabama took a 48-37 lead into the locker room.
In the first half, the Tide shot 16-34 for 47%, including 9-14 from deep for 64% and made 7-8 from the charity stripe. ‘Bama had 17 rebounds, six assists, five steals, and was a bit sloppy with seven turnovers. Estrada led the way with 22 points while Sears had seven and Stevenson tallied six.
Indiana State shot 11-23 for 48% from the field but blistered the nets deep, hitting 8-14 for 57% from the three point line. The Sycamores made only 7-13 from the stripe, but were competitive in the paint with 20 rebounds, three assists, one block, five steals, and 11 turnovers. Swope scored 15 to lead his team.
A bandaged Nelson was able to start the second half, as Oats sent out the original starting five to begin the period. The halftime adjustments consisted of a heavy dose of Sears and Nelson driving the lane and creating offense, as well as a defensive adjustment of running ISU off of the three-point line.
Sears made 3-4 free throws followed by a three from Estrada and a couple of nice hoops from Nelson to build a 65-53 lead with 13:22 left. Wrightsell made a three-pointer and Nelson continued to score at will at the rim, but the Tide couldn't quite put Indiana State away.
Griffen was handed the duty of guarding Swope and shut him down. However, with the three-point line covered, the Sycamores continually got backdoor cutters to the rim for easy hoops that kept them within striking distance. But a late scoring spurt keyed by Sears and Nelson finally stretched the lead out to 91-72 with 5:38 left, and Oats began substituting liberally.
Freshman Sam Walters scored the 99th and 100th point of the game for the Tide with 1:38 left and the final score ended up 102-80.
In the second half Bama shot 17-30 for 56% including 13-23 for 56% from three and made 16-19 from the free throw line.
Overall, Alabama shot 33-64 for 52%, 13-23 for 56% from deep, and 23-27 for 85% from the line. The Tide had 40 rebounds, 10 assists, six blocks, six steals, and committed 11 turnovers — just four the second half
Estrada led the way with 27 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and only one turnover in 31 minutes of action. Sears finished with 24 on 6-10 shooting with four rebounds and two assists.
After only scoring two in the first half, Grant totaled 20 points, shooting 7-10 from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line, while leading the team with eight rebounds, dishing out two assists, grabbing a steal, and blocking two shots. Stevenson made it a quartet with double digits by scoring 10 points in his 18 minutes of action. Wrightsell had 21 minutes of action and added eight points and three rebounds to his tough defensive play.
Estrada was named player of the game, and Nelson won his second straight hard hat award.
The Tide allowed only 2-12 from three to Indiana State in the second half, but the Sycamores shot 16-30 for 53% overall. Free throws were a problem again at 9-13. Overall ISU shot 27-53 for 51%, 10-26 for 39% from three, and 16-26 from the line, while gathering 25 rebounds, dishing out 10 assists, grabbing eight steals, blocking two shots, and committing 13 turnovers. Swope led four players in double figures with 17 points.
It remains to be seen if this will be the starting group going forward (Griffen, Sears, Ponch, Grant & Pringle). But interestingly enough, it is the second straight game where CNO ran the same five starters out. This has to be a first too. We’ve become accustomed to Coach Oats sometimes spending up to full month experimenting with a starting lineup. There just isn’t time to do so this year though. The Tide only has two more tuneups before it faces the heart of its out of conference schedule.
And, honestly, as flexible as this roster is, “starter” may just be a formality; the best fits, the hot hands, the defensive efforts are going to get the minutes. The closest comparison, however, was last season, when the Tide had settled on a starting lineup after just a handful of games, and that turned out okay. Tonight, Pringle just didn’t have it, and he joined a frustrated Oats Nate on the pine pretty early in the first half.
This was another exciting win for the Tide. The offense isn’t the problem. Alabama is unselfish with the ball, is stacked with perimeter shooters, and is a very good free throw shooting team. Consecutive 100 point games don’t happen very often in college basketball, and this Bama team can score.
Defensively, though, things will have to be tightened up. The looming defensive presence of Charles Bediako isn't lurking in the lane anymore, and the Tide is going to have to shore up that part of the game.
Offensively, the team has multiple options that can get buckets. Nelson, Estrada, and Sears especially — but Griffen, Stevenson, Walters, and others can score as well.
Oats mentioned that Estrada can do so many things, and today they needed him to go get buckets. So he did. Oats reiterated that the team has to “get much, much, better on defense.” The fourth year coach went on to say that the team appreciates the fan support and that “people seem to like points, so we try to give them what they like, and we feel we offer a good product.”
Indeed, the team offers a good, fun, product. This group is fun to watch. But this was also a foundational game. The Tide made several key second-half adjustments that permitted them to dominate the glass after the break, forced ISU into trading twos for threes, and helped cut down on ‘Bama turnovers.
Indiana State isn’t quite as good a non-con team as we’ve seen the last few years, but Larry Legend’s alma mater was coming off a 23-win season where it made the postseason, and it is a well-coached squad.
Next up: A Tuesday night home game in Coleman against South Alabama, again at 7 p.m. CT, followed by a Friday night contest at home against Mercer, also at 7 pm. Both will be available on SEC Network Plus.
After the end of the homestand the Tide will travel to Destin, FL to play Ohio State on Friday at 6 p.m., and then either Oregon or Santa Clara that Saturday at either 3 pm or 6 pm.