JD Davison helps Alabama basketball close out ULL in charity exhibition
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After a brief showcase Friday night, the most anticipated Alabama basketball team in recent memory made its debut in front of Crimson Tide fans Sunday inside of Coleman Colesium.
No. 14 Alabama is expected to put on better shows once games start counting next month. However, the Tide did enough to get end its preseason on the right foot, beating Louisiana-Lafayette 73-68 in its charity exhibition.
"It was a perfect exhibition game in my opinion," Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. "They're a good team. There's a reason we did the charity exhibition against a Division I [team] versus a non-Division I [team] because I think they can push you and stretch you. We've got plenty of work to do over the next two to three weeks plus."
Alabama’s unveiling got off to an underwhelming start as it turned the ball over three times on its first four possessions while hitting just 3 of its first 19 shots from the floor to open the game. The Tide’s shooting didn’t improve too much throughout the afternoon as it finished 20 of 60 (33 percent) from the floor, including just 6 of 30 (20 percent) from beyond the arc.
However, fans were treated to an exciting ending as freshman point guard JD Davison scored six points in the final minute to help Alabama stave off its visitors. With the Tide clinging to a one-point lead, the five-star freshman drove to the lane, outmuscling his defender for a layup. From there, he closed off the game making his final four free throws to ensure an Alabama victory.
"Really happy with JD's play, especially late in the game," Oats said. "He got the big bucket when we needed one. He went to the free-throw line and was 4 of 4 late in the game, going 7 of 7 [from the line in the game]. People wondered about his shooting, he didn't make a 3 tonight, but he's making them in practice, and he went to the free-throw line and made shots."
Davison scored 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting while also recording three rebounds, three assists and four steals. Keon Ellis led the Tide with 21 points, shooting 5 of 10 from beyond the arc. Graduate transfer Noah Gurley closed out Alabama’s double-figure scorers with 13 points.
Playing without Jahvon Quinerly and Juwan Gary, Alabama put out a starting lineup that featured three new faces including Davison and Gurley as well as freshman center Charles Bediako. Ellis also got the start in addition to last year’s leading scorer, Jaden Shackelford.
With Alabama struggling during a 1-for-14 stretch in the first half, Davison ended a lengthy scoring drought for the Tide, converting on an athletic three-point play to spur a 7-0 run. The point guard then hit a layup at the buzzer to trim Alabama’s halftime deficit to a single point.
Alabama was able to stay in the game early thanks to a mixture of solid defense and sloppy ball-handing by ULL. The Ragin’ Cajuns shot 48 percent from the floor in the first half but were not able to separate themselves from the Tide thanks to 13 first-half turnovers. Both teams showed plenty of preseason slopiness on the afternoon as ULL finished with 25 turnovers while Alabama had 22.
Trailing by two points midway through the first half, Alabama used a 15-3 run to make sure its offseason ended on the right note. The run was ignited by a 3 from Shackelford, who had missed his previous nine shots to start the game. Ellis also had a big 3 during that stretch, answering back from a 3 on the other end to extend the Tide’s lead to 63-57 with 6:00 to play.
"That's just when we locked in on defense and got stops," Ellis said. "We were struggling on offense early, but that will happen during the season. Shots are not going to drop. But once we locked in on defense, that made it easier for our offense to flow. You know, you get some fastbreak points, some easy buckets and that just helps your offense flow a little easier."
ULL was able to claw back to within one point in the final minute before Davison's heroics helped Alabama hold the lead and come away with the win.
It was an afternoon to forget for Shackelford, who shot 1 of 14, including 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. The junior finished with 6 points and seven rebounds but turned the ball over five times. Bediako didn't have quite the same freshman debut as Davison, but he was also solid, contributing 5 points and seven rebounds.
Alabama will open its regular season on Nov. 9 when it hosts Louisiana Tech.
Oats provides updates on three players
Following the game, Oats revealed that Quinerly and Juwan Gary sat out due to suspension for violating team rules. Oats said both players have "handled themselves appropriately" since and will be available for Alabama's season opener next month.
Oats also said that Alex Tchikou did not feature as he continues to recover from the Achilles injury that kept him out all of last season. The redshirt freshman forward is also expected to be available by next month's opener.
"He's able to play," Oats said. "He has not been able to practice for very long because of the Achilles injury, so he's still getting back in shape. What we needed, I didn't think he could provide just from where he was at, but he's available. He'll be available for Game 1 as well."