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Alabama basketball bounces back with win over UNLV in Maui Invitational

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats. Photo | Imagn
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats. Photo | Imagn

The shots were going to start falling eventually. Nate Oats knew that. What bothered the Alabama basketball head coach following Monday’s blowout loss to Stanford wasn’t his team’s struggles from beyond the arc but rather the deviation from its patented blue-collar work ethic.

“We’ve got to give better effort, that’s the bottom line,” Oats said, stating that his players would have to decide how bad they want to start winning over the next 22 hours.

Tuesday, the effort improved and so did the shooting as Alabama pulled out a much-needed 86-74 victory over UNLV in its second game of the Maui Invitational, which is being held in Asheville, N.C.

"We just asked each other to look each other in the mirror and ask like, which way do we want this season to go?" senior guard John Petty said following Tuesday night's win. "As one of the older guys on the team, I feel like our guys came out and responded well."

After shooting 23.3 from deep over its first two games, the Tide knocked down 38 percent (15 of 40) of its 3-point shots against the Rebels. Petty led the resurgence with a team-high 22 points, including six 3s. After opening his season 3 of 12 from deep over his first two games, the senior guard connected on his first two 3-point attempts Tuesday night, finishing the game 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.

Jahvon Quinerly continued his hot start to his Alabama career, chipping in 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. Herb Jones also had a solid showing, finishing with 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting.

Jaden Shackelford recorded his 18th straight game in double figures, finishing with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists while connecting on three 3s. Joshua Primo also had three 3s, including one to spark a pivotal 8-0 run midway through the second half as Alabama finally began to pull away. The freshman guard stepped up nicely off the bench, finishing with a career-high 11 points.

While the improved shooting was encouraging, Oats was more pleased with his team’s improved hustle.

After an up-and-down first half, Alabama headed into the break tied at 38. From there, the Tide regrouped, hitting back-to-back 3s to open up the second period. With the game tied at 53, Alabama went on an 8-0 run to take a 61-53 lead with 12 minutes remaining. UNLV would never get close again as the Tide shot 56.7 from the floor in the second half.

"Our big thing was we just needed to play harder," Oats said. "I thought some of our guys were figuring out how hard they have to play in a Division I basketball game to get a win."

Alabama survived a hot shooting night from UNLV guard Caleb Grill, who scored a game-high 27 points on 10 of 17 shooting while going 7 of 12 from beyond the arc.

According to Oats, forward Keon Ellis missed the game due to a non-COVID-19 related illness. The junior college transfer was isolated from his teammates in his hotel room.

“Hopefully he’s over it. Maybe it’s a quick 24-hour thing, we’re hoping, and maybe he can get back,” Oats said. “But we really didn’t want him to get around the team and get it spreading around the team.”

Next up

Following Tuesday’s win, Alabama (2-1) will close out the tournament against Providence (2-1) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT. The Friars held off Davidson, 63-62 on Tuesday.

Providence is led by senior center Nate Watson and junior guard David Duke. Through three games, Watson is averaging 19 points and six rebounds, while Duke is averaging 14.33 points and 4.67 rebounds.