No. 14 Alabama looks to push pace against Oakland

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Fresh off its first trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament since 2004, Alabama remains one of the highest-scoring teams in the country.

But the No. 14-ranked Crimson Tide (3-0) learned in Tuesday night’s narrow 73-68 win over South Alabama that it won’t mean much if they can’t protect the basketball.

Alabama committed 22 turnovers and barely escaped the upset bid by its cross-state opponent.

The Crimson Tide will look for a sharper performance when they host Oakland (2-1) on Friday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Golden Grizzlies have already scored an upset win over a Power 5 opponent when they beat Oklahoma State last week.

“We got to get our defense picked up and tonight our offense really struggled, too,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “Last game our offense was pretty good but we struggled that way tonight a little bit. Plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball here before we play again on Friday.”

Jaden Shackelford and Keon Ellis each scored 18 points for the Crimson Tide with the former making 4 of 7 shots from 3-point range. Alabama was one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the country last season, averaging more than 10 triples made per game.

Alabama is shooting treys at a high volume again this season, and has made 33.3 percent (33 for 100) so far while averaging 90.0 points per game.

Outside shooting helped the Tide begin to pull away late in the second half as Ellis hit a key triple to spark an 8-0 run after he tied the game with a layup with 12 minutes left. Jahvon Quinerly’s go-ahead layup with 2:48 left gave Alabama the lead for good.

“It’s definitely a good sign, when we face adversity, to not give up and fight back,” Shackelford said. “Us not giving up, us fighting, we see what we got as a team.”

Oakland is coming off an 80-59 victory against visiting Toledo on Wednesday night. Jamal Cain put together a monster performance to lead the Golden Grizzlies with 29 points and 17 rebounds as well as three steals and two blocks.

“Well, all we do now is go play Alabama,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said jokingly after the victory.

Jalen Moore finished with 17 points and 11 assists and Blake Lampman added 18 points off the bench as Oakland shot 48.5 percent from the field.

The Golden Grizzlies outscored Toledo 39-18 over the final 15:23 of the game.

Oakland shot 18-for-32 (56.3 percent) from the floor in the second half. The Golden Grizzlies also went 8-for-11 from the free-throw line over the final 20 minutes.

Oakland’s two wins in three games is already a vast improvement over its 0-9 start to last season.

“I just believe in this group, man,” Kampe said after the Grizzlies’ recent win over Oklahoma State. “I’ve never been so positive about a team before they ever played a game. The energy and the enthusiasm that they have and the way they play and the togetherness they have — we got a chance to be special.”

–Field Level Media

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