Tide Hoops Rallies Late to Top Vols in SEC Opener in Tuscaloosa
No. 19 Alabama rallied late Wednesday night to top the Tennessee Volunteers after trailing most of the contest, opening their SEC play with a 73-68 home win that did not come easy.
Fourteenth-ranked Tennessee was missing starters Kennedy Chandler and John Fulkerson after positive COVID tests. Chandler is the Vols’ leading scorer at 14 points per game while Fulkerson averages 9.9.
Noah Gurley came off the bench to score 20 points including two late clinching free throws to lead Alabama. Also in double digits for the Crimson Tide were Jahvon Quinerly with 18 and Jaden Shackelford with 12. Keon Ellis struggled much of the contest but hit a big three in the closing minutes to finish with nine points.
Olivier Nkamholia led the Vols [9-3, 0-1 SEC] with 15 points.
Said Tide coach Nate Oats: “Tough game. It’s a war. You’ve got to give Tennessee a lot of credit playing without two starters.
“We struggled to make shots. JD Davison struggled on offense but gave us what we needed on defense. ‘Shack’ struggled but his defense never waned.
“Noah Gurley has been in the gym working," Oats continued. "Noah came up with ten rebounds and we’ve been on him about that. He stepped up for us.
“I told him hard work is not going to go unrewarded. I thought his effort was great. I told him to ‘lose yourself and just play hard.’ Obviously his best game since he’s been here and it came at an opportune time.”
“We went on a 16-5 run to close the game out. It’s a big win for us. Tennessee is going to challenge for the SEC title and we’ve got the tie-breaker now.”
Gurley added, “Our focus was winning. Everybody believes in each other. Coach says if you’re open shoot it.
“I’m playing to my strengths and adapting to the system. I’m comfortable with this group. Everybody wants to see me do well.”
Quinerly said he told Gurley after the game ‘we need you like that the rest of the year.’
Alabama [10-3, 1-0] rallied from a ten-point first half-deficit to tie the game at 33 at intermission.
Tennessee led for nearly 28 of the game’s 40 minutes but when push came to shove, the Vols simply could not close the deal.
Bama won the backboard battle 43-35 and won despite turning the ball over 15 times leading to 16 Vols’ points. Bama made its final three shots to close the game on a 6-0 run.
On a side note, Alabama social media influencer Hunter Johnson reported seeing former Tide stars James “Hollywood” Robinson, Chuck Davis and Rod Grizzard at the game.
Next up for the Crimson Tide is a scheduled game at Florida on Jan. 5 at 6 p.m. CST televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
The Gators have also been battling COVID issues so the game as scheduled is TBD. Florida’s league opener with Ole Miss that was to be played Wednesday had to be postponed, so time will tell if the Alabama game takes place as scheduled.