Alabama Basketball defeats #1 UNC in 4OT Thriller

Furious! What a game. Part comedy of mistakes, part brilliant game, part head-scratching bug, but all heart and guts. The 18th-ranked Crimson Tide basketball team overtook top-ranked North Carolina in four overtime Sunday afternoon by a score of 103-101. The Tide fought back against the loss of Noah Clowney to a scary injury just three minutes into the game and Brandon Miller fought back foul troubles to see through. They improved to 6-1 on the season while UNC fell to 5-2. The Tide took third place at the prestigious Phil Knight Invitational.

Coach Nate Oats started the same lineup of Miller, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Nimari Burnett and Clowney that has started all season. Sears hit a three to start scoring. Clowney went upstairs for a shot, landing hard on his hip/tail bone. He lay for a few minutes before being taken to the locker room. The newcomer eventually returned to the bench but his day was over after just three minutes. Miller was plagued by early foul problems and wasn’t a factor in the first half.

Pushed to play more minutes, Noah Gurley made his presence felt early, hitting a three-point shot to put the Tide 9-7 ahead at the 15:25 mark. Sears, with the help of Jahvon Quinerly, took over the scoring charts and the Tide extended a 28-23 lead by 4:49. Shortly thereafter, Miller drew his third foul on a (questionable) arraignment call. A three-point shot from Rylan Griffen increased Bama’s lead to 34-27 with 1:53 at halftime. Sears made their fourth from long range with 27 seconds left, but the Tar Heels were able to cut the lead to 37-34 at the break.

At halftime, Bama was shooting a hot 50% to 14-28, including 7-13 from deep. The hot hitting didn’t carry over to the free throw line, where the Tide scored just 2 of 5. Bama had 19 rebounds, 10 assists and nine turnovers in the first half. UNC shot 11-28 for 39%, 4-10 from three-point range. and 6-7 from the free throw line. The Heels had 16 rebounds, four assists, five steals, six steals, and seven turnovers.

Gurley replaced Clowney to start the second half with the other four original starters. Miller eventually dented the scoreboard by hitting two free throws with 17:57 left, followed by a three-pointer with 17:25 to give Tide a 46-39 lead. North Carolina was able to take advantage of Bama missing Clowney with their bigs in depression. Miller was called for his fourth foul with 16 minutes remaining, leaving The Tide without what are arguably the two most important players of the season so far.

The game heaved back and forth before the tide turned cold and UNC embarked on a 10-0 run to take a 63-55 lead with just over nine minutes left in regular time. Sears nailed another long jumper to break the streak. Miller returned left at 8:57 and played the final 29 minutes of the game without fouling. Gurley made a three and Quinerly hit the hole to reduce the lead to 66-63. Miller then scored and Sears buried a long shot to make it 69-68 Tar Heels with 6:46 left. Gurley ended the game with a three of his own with 4:44 left before Sears continued his hot day with a three at 3:09 to level the score at 75-74 for Carolina.

Gurley knocked down two free throws to regain the lead for Bama at 76-75 with 1:52 on the clock but then threw the ball away with UNC leading 77-76 by 1:15. Carolina missed the far end and Sears was fouled on the rebound. He went 1-2 to tie the game at 77 with 45 seconds left. Quinerly ended up trying to win the game for the Tide by going one-on-one, but missed on the lane to send the game into overtime.

The first overtime continued the back and forth, with William Shaver and Miller trading two free throws made. Bama made two careless turnovers, one on an inbound pass, and again failed to get the final shot. Double overtime gave Tide an early lead after a fantastic move and dunk from Bediako. Quinerly followed with a basket and the Tide looked 85-81 with 3:38 left. Bediako had another dunk to keep Bama up at four. UNC reduced the lead to two before Jaden Bradley went strong to the hole and took the lead 89-85 with 2:07 to go. Bama held a two-point lead by 1:07, but allowed Carolina to level the game. Quinerly dribbled down the clock again and missed twice in the final minute, including two seconds from time.

For the third overtime, The Tide started without Bediako on the court, with a small group of Quinerly, Miller, Gurley, Bradley and Sears. The Tar Heels capitalized on Bediako’s break by scoring six straight points, all in the paint with little resistance. Miller then scored five straight points to cut the lead to 96-94, leaving 2:20. With 28 seconds remaining, Quinerly made two clutch free throws to level the game at 96. Bama forced a turnover but returned it right away with a throw on an inbounds game. UNC couldn’t get a shot and the 4th overtime was imminent.

Bradley drove and scored and UNC took two free throws for a 98-98 score. Bediako followed up a miss with a hoop to five that left the Tide’s 100-98 lead at 1:46. Quinerly missed from three and Miller followed but missed the put back. Bediako made another big shot and Bama led 102-101 with 26 seconds to go. On a drive to the North Carolina basket, Bediako was originally called on for goalkeeping, with Bama collecting the ball after the block. After a review, the call was overturned and the ball awarded to Tide for possession arrow.

With 9.3 seconds remaining, Tide turned the ball over on another inbounds play. Carolina returned the favor by throwing the ball to Bediako on her own inbounds play, and he quickly passed the ball to Bradley. Bradley made 1 of 2 free throws with four seconds remaining. Carolina missed a desperate shot at the buzzer and the tide had the big win, 103-101.

In the four overtimes, the tide shot 10-29 from the field, 1-7 from three and 5-6 on free throws. Overall, the Tide finished 37-90 for 41%, including 16-38 from threes for 42% and 13-21 on free throws for 62%. Bama finished the tournament with 57 rebounds, six blocks, six steals, 21 assists and 22 turnovers. UNC finished 38-91 for 42%. 7-23 from deep for 30% and big 18-20 from 90% on free throws. The Heels had 54 rebounds. 10 blocks, 12 steals, 15 assists and 18 turnovers.

Individually, Sears had 24 points at 7-11 of three, with five rebounds and five assists while playing 55 of the 60 minutes. Bediako had the best game of his career with 14 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, four blocks in 44 huge minutes. Quinerly scored 21 points on 8-26 shooting, 3-11 from deep, with eight assists and six rebounds in 44 minutes. Miller came back and scored 14 points on a miserable 4-21 shooting and had seven rebounds in 48 minutes. Gurley played 42 minutes and had 13 points and six boards. Bradley played his most minutes at 29 and was in double figures with 10 points. Miller and Quinlery combined 12-47 in the game while hot hand, Sears, only managed 13 shots.

What a game! The Tide showed plenty of heart to go the distance with a heavyweight like North Carolina without their toughest inside player in Clowney and without Miller unable to get into a rhythm while struggling badly all night walk. Both teams had numerous chances to win the game at the end of regular time and all four overtime periods. It was like a championship fight and a war of attrition.

The Tide next fits on December 3 when host South Dakota State airs a game to be shown on SEC Network Plus at 7:30 p.m. CT. After that comes Houston, Gonzaga, and Jackson State before the SEC season begins.

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Blue Collar Basketball