Alabama Basketball: UConn Too Much For The Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide basketball team dug an early hole, fought back to the tie but ran out of gas and was beaten 82-67 by Connecticut on Friday night. Bama fell to 5-1 while the Huskies improved to 7-0. UConn seems underrated at 20th place in the last poll. Alabama play next on Sunday when they meet surprise losers North Carolina in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Coach Nate Oats kept the same starting fives from Brandon Miller, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney and Nimari Burnett. The game started with both teams unable to make a basket or take possession of the basketball. There were several blocked shots and turnovers in the first three minutes. Bediako eventually made a hoop and a free throw to score the game’s opening points, but the Tide would not lead for long.

Bama was plagued by sloppy play in the first minutes of the half, but somehow the teams were tied 10-10 with 12-26 remaining. The Tide had nine turnovers by this point, most of them of the casual variety. At 8:39 on the clock, the Huskies had scored 14 straight points and led 24-10. U Conn physically dominated the tide, driving to the basket with impunity and blocking or converting most of the Bama players’ shots.

Miller and colleague Rylan Griffen both hit a pair of three-pointers to make a comeback, cutting the lead to 35-30 at halftime. Bama shot 10-23 for 43% in the first, including 4-6 from three-point reach and 6-6 on free throws, however 16 big turnovers doomed the Tide. Bama had 17 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and four steals. Connecticut shot 13-32 for 40%, including 5-14 for 36% of three, and made 4-6 free throws. The Huskies have committed 10 turnovers of their own during that period and had 16 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and three blocks.

The Tide used the same Staring Five in the second half and was able to draw within two points a couple of times. Oats pulled a technical foul with 18 minutes left that gave the Huskies two free throws – which they made – and the ball. Suddenly the deficit was seven at 39:32.

Bama continued to fight and equalized 44-44 at 13:19 after Jaden Bradley knocked down two free throws. With 7-16 in the game, Connecticut was leading 56-53, and then things went really bad. A 21-4 run took the score to 71-54 with three minutes to go, and that was all she wrote. Miller added a few late baskets, but too few late resulted in an 82-67 shellacking.

Alabama shot 11-27, 2-10 from deep and 13-19 from the line in the second half with 13 rebounds, three assists, a block, no steals and five turnovers. Overall, Bama finished 21-50 for 42%, 6-16 for 37% from deep, 19-25 for 76% at the free throw line with 35 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, six blocks, and 21 turnovers. The Huskies shot 13-28 in the second half with 4-10 from deep, 17-18 from the charity streak and 16 rebounds. Overall, U Conn shot 26-60 for 43%, 9-24 for 38% of three, and a strong 21-24 for 88% off the line, with 32 rebounds, 18 assists, eight steals, seven blocks, and 12 turnovers.

Individually, Miller again led the tide with 18 points and nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The star freshman shot 5-15 from the field, 3-6 from threes and made 5-7 free throws. Tonight’s game was the first of the season in which Miller didn’t score at least 20 points. Bradley was strong, hitting the edge and finishing the game with 12 points and four assists. Clowney added nine points and four rebounds with a couple of steals and a block. Sears added eight points.

The Tide was physically outmatched for the first time all season. The Huskies bullied themselves deeply into success, hitting enough deep shots to loosen things up. Adama Sanogo, a 6ft 9in, 250lb beast, had fought his way down low despite the best efforts of Bediako, Clowney, Noah Gurley and Nick Pringle. Sanogo finished with 25 points to lead all scorers.

Turnovers and poor shooting helped dig a huge hole for Tide, but they fought back and made a game out of it at halftime. The second-half run to a tie gave the team a chance to grab a big win, but they never quite got over the hump and dropped the stretch.

A good learning experience for a team that may have felt a little selfish after Thursday’s win over Michigan State. The turnovers need to be addressed and Miller needs the ball in his hands more. Sometimes multiple possessions were lost without the newcomer superstar putting his hands on the ball. The more touches, the better for a player his size. Bradley has worked his way back from injury to look like a very good point guard. The division of ball-handling duties with Sears and Jahvon Quinerly needs to be clarified going forward.

The Tide plays Sunday’s third-place game against North Carolina, an angry loser against Iowa State on Friday. We will have a report on Sunday with game time and how to find the game on TV. time to fight back!

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