Alabama Avoids Upset, Fights Off Jackrabbits With 78-65 Win
After a wild week at the Phil Knight Invitational where the Tide (7-1) knocked off both No. 12 Michigan State and No. 1 North Carolina, Alabama came home to face South Dakota State (3-6).
Alabama started off the night red hot, hitting four straight three's, all courtesy of Noah Clowney.
The Tide continued to roll in the first half, hitting 9-of-14 from deep and suffocating South Dakota State on defense to jump to a 20-point lead with 6:36 left in the first half.
It looked like the Tide was going to run South Dakota State off the court. But after a South Dakota State timeout, the momentum completely shifted. Alabama allowed the Jackrabbits to go on a 18-5 run in the closing minutes of the first half, cutting the Tide's advantage from 20 to five.
Both teams opened the second half trading scores in the first few possessions, but then, both teams went ice cold. After a Zeke Mayo layup at the 16:34 mark, neither team scored for four and half minutes. The ice was finally broken by a Matthew Mors' jumper. Less than a minute later, Alex Arians hit a three to give the Jackrabbits a 51-50 lead.
Alabama went from being up by 20 to being down by one in 15 minutes.
The Tide finally broke its nearly six minute dry spell via a Noah Clowney free throw with 11:10 left in the game.
The teams continued to trade blows until a Brandon Miller three gave the Tide a four-point advantage with 8:09 to go. Momentum favored the Tide down the stretch.
The Jackrabbits continued to hang on, but a massive Nimari Burnett poster completely flipped the switch for Alabama.
After that, Alabama went on a 15-7 run to slam the door on a potential upset. Fending off South Dakota State with a tough 78-65 win.
Noah Clowney played a key part in Alabama's win, leading all scorers with 22 points, drawing four charges, and winning Alabama's Hard Hat Award. This is coming just six days after Clowney injured his tailbone early on in the Tide's win over UNC.
Here is what Noah Clowney had to say on playing injured:
"I was sore. But I wasn't gonna play no different."
In the postgame presser, coach Oats praised the South Carolina native for his toughness tonight, stating:
"For him to step up and draw four charges with the tailbone bruise he has, that shows how tough of a kid he is."
Ohio transfer Mark Sears also played a huge role in tonight's win for Alabama, knocking down four shots behind the arc and shooting at a 54.5% clip from the field. The Alabama native also reached a huge milestone tonight, scoring his 1,000th career point.
Mark Sears on if he realized he reached that milestone:
"I had no idea at all, I was just out there playing with my guys"
Alabama has one of the toughest stretches in the nation upcoming, as they will play at No.1 Houston, Memphis, and No. 14 Gonzaga. Nate Oats & crew will look to continue to pile on quality wins before heading into SEC play.