TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Following an alarming wake-up call earlier this month, No. 20 Alabama basketball looks to be rolling in the right direction heading into its season opener. The Crimson Tide wrapped up its preseason with a solid performance against Southern Illinois on Saturday, downing the Salukis 73-64 during their charity exhibition inside Foster Auditorium.
Alabama’s win came after a 99-66 defeat in a closed scrimmage at TCU earlier this month. Following that loss, the Crimson Tide held a players-only meeting to refocus itself and right the ship heading into the regular season. Whatever was said seemed to work.
Debuting its revamped roster in front of a student-only attendance, Alabama wasn’t its sharpest but still provided plenty to cheer about. The Crimson Tide shot just 3 of 23 from deep but made up by outmuscled Southern Illinois down low. Alabama outrebounded Southern Illinois 46-29 while holding a 44-28 advantage in the paint.
Alabama sent out a starting five featuring four newcomers in transfer guards Mark Sears (Ohio) and Dom Welch (St. Bonaventure) and freshmen forwards Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney in addition to graduate forward Noah Gurley. However, Nate Oats rotated heavily through his roster, getting all his available players plenty of action.
With its preseason slate in the books, Alabama will prepare for its season opener against Longwood on Nov. 7 inside Coleman Coliseum.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s charity exhibition.
Alabama looks fine without Bediako
Alabama is hoping to get injured starter Charles Bediako back in time for its season opener. However, if the Crimson Tide has to play a few games without its big man, it should be able to manage just fine. All of Alabama’s bigs put in solid performances Saturday as Clowney, Gurley and JUCO transfer Nick Pringle combined for 28 points and 22 rebounds.
Starting in place of Bediako at the center position, Clowney made a strong first impression, chipping in six points and two rebounds during Alabama’s first rotation over the opening four minutes. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward served finished the game with six points and eight rebounds, playing solid defense in the paint.
Gurley led the way down low, scoring 12 points while coming down with six rebounds. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound graduate student was able to use his blend of size and savvy to his advantage, drawing multiple fouls while driving down the lane. He finished the afternoon 6 of 9 from the line
Pringle provided plenty of athleticism off the bench, showing off his hops with a pair of second-half dunks. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound junior nearly netted a double-double, scoring 10 points to go with eight rebounds,
Miller shows his potential
Alabama’s five-star freshman will have flashier performances moving forward. However, Saturday was a solid first impression from Miller. After starting the game a bit passively, the McDonald’s All-American flipped a switch in the second half, finishing with a team-high 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting to go with six rebounds.
Miller never got things going from beyond the arc, missing all five of his 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward did show off his athleticism in the transition game, including a powerful dunk off a steal in the first half. He also played solid defense, recording a pair of steals.
Sears provides explosion at the point
Alabama’s new point guard was pulling all the strings. Sears was arguably the Crimson Tide’s most effective scorer, recording 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting while tallying four rebounds and a pair of assists. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior showed plenty of athleticism, driving to the lane and dishing out passes to his teammates.
Sears did have a team-high four turnovers which were a product of his aggressive play on the court. He’ll need to take care of the ball better moving forward, but his hustle and distribution up the court should go a long way for the Crimson Tide as Jahvon Quinerly continues to recover from his ACL injury.