Alabama Basketball Holds On Vs. South Dakota State

There was some question as to whether Alabama freshman Noah Clowney would be able to play Saturday night against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits after Clowney had suffered a severe leg/back contusion Sunday against North Carolina. Not only did Clowney play, he started.

And what a start.

In the first four minutes the 6-10 forward connected on four three-point shots (between the first three and the fourth he had one rim out).

Good thing.

A first half of near-continuous double-digit leads disappeared completely in the second half before the Crimson Tide pulled away in the final minutes for a misleading 78-65 win over South Dakota State in Coleman Coliseum.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to play,” Alabama Coach Nate Oats. “We didn’t play well in the last 8 minutes of the first half and the first 8 minutes of the second half.

“I thought we looked like we still hadn’t recovered from out West Coast trip.

“But I also want to give credit to South Dakota State. They played at Kent State (in Ohio) last night and then came in here and played well.”

The Crimson Tide, ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll and 14th in the Coaches Poll, improved its record (if not its play) to 7-1. The Jackrabbits fell to 3-5.

Alabama Returns to action next Saturday at No. 1 Houston at 2 pm on ABC. Bama’s next home game will be December 13th against Memphis.

Alabama’s 20-point lead Midway through the first half had shrunk to 7, only 42-35, at halftime. A quick Brandon Miller Trey gave Alabama a 10-point lead, but it was soon down to only 3 as the Jackrabbits opened the second half on an 11-8 run. And Moments after that an Alex Arians three-pointer had South Dakota State 51, Alabama 50 with 11:33 to play.

Bama tied it at 51 on a Clowney free throw – the only tie of the game and after Nimari Burnett had a putback and one for a 54-53 Tide lead, Alabama did not trail again.

It was, however, never comfortable until Clowney finally made his fifth three-pointer with 4:23 – almost 31 minutes since his fourth – to make it 67-58. He was 5-12 on treys.

Clowney finished with 22 points, Mark Sears with 19, and Brandon Miller with 16. Clowney also had a team-high 9 rebounds, took four charges, and had four assists to take the Tide’s Hardhat Award.

Alabama hit 27-68 (40 percent) from the field, including 13-40 (33 percent) on three-pointers, and 11-15 free throws (73 percent). The Jackrabbits made 26-61 from the field (43 percent), 6-20 on treys (30 percent), and 7-11 on free throws (64 percent).

Bama had a 45-37 advantage in rebounds and made 15 points off the boards to South Dakota State’s 8.

Alabama also had the advantage in second-chance points, 19-7, and fast break points, 14-0, but the Jackrabbits outscored the Tide in the paint, 32-28.

Bama had 20 assists against only 10 turnovers with Jahvon Quinerly coming off the bench and contributing 7 assists.

Oats said Clowney “practiced only one day and played like he did, took four charges with his tailbone bruised, tells how tough he is.”

Following the game, Clowney said, “I was sore, but I could play. I had a fast start.”

Indeed. Clowney’s fast start erased South Dakota State’s only first-half lead, lead (2-0, lasting 26 seconds, and with a brief second-half lead, a total time of possession of 1:08) and the Tide ran it out to 21 -8 before the Jackrabbits hit double figures. Midway through the first half Mark Sears made three three-pointers in under a minute of play, the last one a long backboard assisted, and Bama had a 20-point lead at 37-17.

Clowney would have 14 points and Sears 12 in the first half.

But the Jackrabbits didn’t go into a hole. Paced by Charlie Easley with three treys and 11 points, the visitors closed out the half on an 18-5 run and Bama’s lead was only 7 points at 42-35, even with the Tide with a 22-15 edge in rebounds.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama starters were the same as in all previous games, Charles Bediako at center, Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney at forwards, and Mark Sears and Nimari Burnett at guards.

If Houston maintains its number one poll spot until next Saturday, it will be Bama’s second game of the year against the top-ranked team, the Tide having defeated North Carolina, 101-103 last Sunday in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon.

Alabama has a four-game winning streak over teams that played in the previous year’s Final Four, 3-0 last year and 1-0 this season.

The Tide is one of five schools in Division I that has two wins over ranked teams this season, Bama having defeated both Michigan State and North Carolina in the PKI. The other four schools with two such wins are Arizona, Creighton, Purdue, and Virginia.

In an earlier game in Coleman Coliseum Saturday, the Alabama Women’s team ran its record to 6-2 with a 61-52 win over UT-Chattanooga.

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