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Crimson Tide Finds Their Shooting Touch, Routs Eastern Kentucky 111-67

After some rough offensive numbers the last few games, the Tide found their stroke on Saturday and ran Eastern Kentucky off the court.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Jerry Colangelo’s 2023 Hall of Fame Series - Alabama vs Arizona
Rylan Griffen had a big day for the Tide on Saturday
Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

TL; DR

After shooting a combined 12-62 from three point range over the last two games the Alabama Crimson Tide found the comfort of home (and a lesser opponent) to their liking on Saturday.

Bama canned 19-38 of the arc to overpower Eastern Kentucky by a score of 111-67. EKU entered the contest ranked 362 in the nation in three point defense. The Tide improved to 7-5 on the season while the Colonels fell to 4-8.

That hot shooting wasn’t just the product of set-shots. The Tide had outstanding ball movement. Impressively, Alabama set a record for unselfish play under Coach Oats, by dishing out an unreal 29 assists.

This was a bad team, for sure; but, the Tide showed intensity and focus most of the forty minutes — they were very sluggish out of the locker room. Still, ‘Bama largely closed out on defense, were very active on the defensive glass, and emphasized the extra pass.

With the SEC schedule beginning after the Holidays, Alabama will need every bit of that effort, every game…but without the moments of disinterest.

Recap

Coach Nate Oats stayed with the starting five of Mark Sears, Aaron Estrada, Rylan Griffen, Grant Nelson, and Mo Wague for the 3 p.m. contest.

Sears hit a three pointer to open the game and shortly after Nelson drained one from long range to give the Tide a lead of 10-3. Oats was substituting liberally and the three’s kept raining. Griffen, Estrada, and Sam Walters all connected over the next few minutes for a 23-11 lead with 14:25 left. Griffen was red hot, and hit three more before the break, Walters hit another, and Latrell Wrightsell, Jr. joined the parade with two makes of his own. All told six different players made three point shots in the first half.

By the halftime buzzer, the Tide had poured in 61 points and held EKU to 32 points. Bama shot 23-36 for 64% with 12-21 for 57% from three point range in the first stanza. The only blemish was 3-6 free throw shooting. The Tide had 23 rebounds, 16 assists, two blocks, four steals, and five turnovers. Griffen led the way with 14 points on 5-6 shooting including 4-5 from behind the arc. Nelson added 12 points, Sears had nine, and Walters eight.

EKU shot 11-37 for 30% with 3-14 from three and 7-9 on free throws. The Colonels had 20 rebounds, two blocks, four steals, two assists, and six turnovers. Robby Todd and Isaiah Cozart scored 12 each to lead the team.

Oats sent out the same starters for the second half, but the looked like a whole new group. Uninterested, half asleep, and ready for Christmas break. It took just two minutes, and eight straight EKU points for Oats to yank all five starters and collect a technical foul. The second half run for Eastern Kentucky reached 13-0 before Walters made two free throws to final get the Tide on the second half board. All five starters return after Walters made his free throws, and the message seemed to have been recieved.

Griffen, Nelson, and Davin Cosby all hit three point shots and suddenly the lead was back out to 81-56 with 9:50 left in the game. From there, it became target practice again. Estrada, Cosby, and Wrightsell took turns connecting from long range. The Tide finally inserted Kai Spears and Max Scharnowski in the game. Spears even added a hoop and Bama had the much needed comfortable 111-67 victory.

In the second half Bama shot 17-33 for 52%, 7-17 from three for 41%, and 9-14 for 64% from the free throw line.

Stats

Overall the Tide shot 58% on 40-69 shooting, 19-38 from three, and a poor 12-20 for 60% at the line. Alabama had 46 rebounds, three blocks, eight steals, 29 huge assists, and committed 10 turnovers. Griffen was player of the game with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal all in 21 minutes. The 19 points were a career high for the sophomore.

Nelson had 19 points, two rebounds, and five assists, also in 21 minutes. Estrada had 12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in a team leading 25 minutes. Cosby took advantage of his most minutes of the season-19- by shooting 4-6 from three point range for 12 points. Walters had his second straight big game with 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 21 minutes. Sears was the sixth man in double digits with 11 points and added five assists and four rebounds. Nick Pringle was the leading rebounder with 10 and added six points, two blocks, and a steal.

Eastern Kentucky improved to 13-34 for 38% in the second half including 5-15 for 33% from deep. The Colonels made 4-8 second half freebies, Overall, The Tide defense held EKU to 24-71 for 34%, 9-29 for 27% behind the arc, and 11-17 on free throws. Eastern had 39 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks, seven steals, and 13 turnovers. Leland Walker scored 20, Cozart 19, and Michael Moreno had 18 on 6-9 three points shooting.

Takeaways

You can't put too much stock in beating a very bad Eastern Kentucky team, but it was nice to see some shots go in for multiple players and a win of any kind was needed. Other than the first two minutes of the second half, the effort was great. Players were diving on the floor for balls, and in general busting their butts…at least for 38 of the 40 minutes.

Oats mentioned the beginning of the second half when he said “we have stretches where we fall apart”, adding that “we have a lot of guys that can shoot it, but Rylan Griffen has been the only one that has separated himself from others on defense.”

When asked if Devin Cosby could see more minutes going forward the fifth year coach said “we know Devin can shoot, the problem is his defense.” Griffen said that he passed up an open three point attempt against Arizona and that Oats told him “never pass up another one again.” Griffen’s offense is coming around the last few games and will need to continue to going forward.

Next up is the last non-conference game on the slate with a 1 p.m. game in Birmingham against the Liberty Flames on Saturday the 30th. The TV Network is TBD.

And Bama will open SEC play on January 6th in Nashville against the struggling Vanderbilt Commodores.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas

Roll Tide