TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After a wild Thanksgiving week in Portland, featuring two AP top 15 wins and a third place finish at the Phil Knight Invitational, the 6-1 Alabama Crimson Tide hosted the 3-5 South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Friday night in Coleman Coliseum.
It was the Tide’s first action since last Sunday’s triple-overtime 103-101 win in a classic versus the number one team in the country, the North Carolina Tar Heels—earning a much needed six days of rest after.
The game opened with an airball three from Noah Clowney, but he then managed to rip off four straight makes from deep—accounting for the Tide’s first 12 points. This sparked a hot start for the home team offensively, while the visiting Jackrabbits struggled to find many good looks early on.
The ever important three point shot was falling for the Tide throughout the first half, hitting nine of their first fifteen shots from outside, but South Dakota State responded with an ensuing run that would cut the Tide lead to single digits at the end of the first half.
After the first 20, Alabama led 42 to 37, but they only managed to score five points in the last seven minutes.
The Jackrabbits made life difficult for the Tide inside the three point line after the tide cooled off, and the run was fueled by junior guard Charlie Easley who led the visitors in scoring with 11.
The second half began emulating the end of the first with the Jackrabbits continuing to pressure the Tide defense inside and getting very good looks down low, and Alabama continuously biting on pump fakes that were leading to layups.
After opening the game looking rejuvenated and well rested, the Crimson Tide started playing sloppy and committing unforced errors offensively while also struggling to get good looks down low.
“Defensively, I felt like when shots stopped falling we stopped playing hard,” freshman forward Noah Clowney. “We took our foot off the gas and got complacent.”
This led to Oats turning to the bench looking for a spark to reignite the stagnant Crimson Tide offense midway through half number two, after the Jackrabbits took a 51-50 lead eight minutes into the second 20.
Offensive struggles would continue throughout the half, as Alabama was only able to muster nine points in the first 12 minutes of the second half—and they were in desperate need of one of their stars in Mark Sears or Brandon Miller to pull the team out of the rut that they found themselves in offensively.
The response, however, was led by Noah Clowney, who finished with a game high 22 sparking a tide run to end the game with a final score of 78-65.
It was a good lesson for a young team to have to grind a game out defensively and figure out how to muster in game adjustments on both ends of the court.
“We struggled offensively during stretches. We weren’t making threes, we weren’t getting offensive boards, we weren’t getting to the free throw line enough, and we didn’t put enough pressure on them inside.” Coach Oats said, “We gotta make some stuff happen when threes aren’t dropping.”
The Crimson Tide have another week off sitting at 7-1 to get their minds and bodies right before an extremely tough stretch, as they will travel to the University of Houston to take on the number one ranked Cougars next Saturday.