The Tide is undefeated no more, falling 92-81 to Ohio State on Friday night. The game was played in Raider Arena, Niceville, Florida, home of the Northwest Florida State Raiders as part of the Emerald Coast Classic. Other than a quick 6-0 Tide lead, Bama was out-shot, out-rebounded, out-hustled, and out-classed by the Buckeyes. Alabama will play in the consolation game at 3 p.m. Saturday against the loser of Oregon and Santa Clara.
Coach Nate Oats stuck with the same starting lineup of Grant Nelson, Nick Pringle, Mark Sears, and Aaron Estrada to face OSU. Estrada scored the games first hoop, then stole the inbounds pass and put in another basket to get the Tide off to a quick start. Another hoop quickly made it 6-0 before the Buckeyes began seemingly making every shot they threw up. The Tide was able to keep pace for most of the half, but OSU used a late run to make a 38-33 lead into half time
At the break the Tide was shooting 14-27 for 52%, but only 3-12 from deep, and made 2-3 free throws. Alabama only gathered eight rebounds in the entire half. Ohio State shot 14-26 for 54%, with 5-12 for 42% from deep and 5-5 at the charity stripe. Sophomore Bruce Thornton scored 14 points in 17 first half minutes, and Oats couldn't find an answer for him. Oats said at half time that “we have to do a better job on Thornton, we tried to put Rylan (Griffen) on him, but he committed a couple of dumb fouls.
Bama used the same starting lineup in the second half, but soon I would expect there to be at least one change coming. The teams traded baskets for the first few minutes before the Buckeyes started taking control. With 14:40 left, the deficit was at double digits with a score of 52-42. Any time that the Tide made a semi-run, OSU would answer with dead-eye shooting from behind the arc. With 8:46 left, the margin was 71-56, and things definitely looked bleak.
With 5:29 left, Sears connected from downtown and the lead was cut to nine, at 76-67. Unfortunately, the Tide went four possessions with two missed threes and two turnovers, and any hope was extinguished. The Buckeyes continued to march to the line, and finally did miss a couple, but added enough to the lead to take things home. The teams traded a few more baskets down the stretch and Ohio State came away with the 92-81 victory.
In the second half Bama shot 12-29 for 41% including 6-18 for 33% from three and made 18-23 free throws for 78%. Overall, Bama connected on 26-56 for 46% from the field, 9-30 for 30% from three, and 20-26 for 77% from the line. The team had a season low 24 rebounds, dished out 12 assists, had five steals, three blocks, and gave the ball away 12 times- often unforced, careless, errors. Nelson finished with 20 points, six rebounds, two assists, and three blocks, as he knocked down 9-9 from the free throw line. Estrada tallied 19 points on 8-15 shooting and added four assists, and committed three turnovers. The graduate transfer missed several shots he normally makes, and didn't appear as sharp as he typically his. Sears was next with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals, but also three turnovers. Latrell Whitesell Jr added nine points in 24 minutes off the bench.
Ohio State shot 13-24 for 54% in the second half with 5-6 from deep and an incredible 23-25 from the free throw line. Overall the Buckeyes were 27-50 for 54% from the field, an impressive 10-18 for 56% from three, and an incredible 28-30 for 93% on free throws. OSU had 32 rebounds, 10 assists, nine steals, one block, and committed 14 turnovers. In 36 minutes, Thornton tossed in 29 points and added four assists, and was fouled an incredible nine times, making 13-14 free throws. Thornton’ s backcourt mate, Roddy Gayle, Jr added 23 points. Zed Key scored 11 off the bench and the only other Buckeye in double figures.
After the game Oats lamented about his teams (lack of) defense, saying “they exposed our weakness of the defensive end.” Then added “I think we have too many guys worried about their offense when they should be worried about their defense.” The Tide entered the contest averaging 102 points a game on 57% field goal shooting and 49% shooting from deep.
For the second time this season, Nelson had zero rebounds at the half, and still led the team in boards at the end of the game. Oats mentioned that “we need that second half effort for 40 minutes, not just 20.” Oats also said that Griffen has been the only one that has decided to try and play great defense, despite things not going well for him on the offensive end.
Overall, not a good night for the Tide. Obviously losses are going to come over the long season and this could have just been one of those nights. However in addition to their sharpshooting, the Buckeyes were more physical than Bama. The bigs other than Nelson- Pringle, Jarin Stevenson, and Mohamed Wague, contributed eight points, eight rebounds, and zero blocks in a combined 43 minutes of action. One or more will need to step it up as the schedule continues to get more difficult. Oats shortened the rotation to only nine players with only seven of those playing double digit minutes.
There is plenty of basketball yet to play, and the Tide won't shoot as poorly or face an opponent that shoots as well as OSU did tonight very often. Time to buckle down and start playing the blue collar basketball that Oats longs for.