Turnovers and fouls were the storyline for the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-2) in their Wednesday night 74-64 loss to the No. 6 ranked Duke Blue Devils (6-1) in New York.
Although the upset bid was alive and well early for the Tide a lack of discipline and execution down the stretch crippled Alabama’s chances for a big non-conference win.
Freshman sensation Jabari Parker proved to be a match-up nightmare for Anthony Grant as he led the way for all scorers with 27 points and 8 rebounds. Parker’s big night marks the seventh straight game that the highly touted freshman has scored 20 points or more.
Forward Nick Jacobs led Alabama in scoring with 18 points off the bench and 7 rebounds. Alabama’s leading scorer Trevor Releford was limited to just 11 points after getting into foul trouble early. The Tide’s senior leader sat out much of the first half with 3 fouls.
Algie Key was the only other Tide player in double digits, scoring 11 points off the bench on 5-7 shooting. Fowards Shannon Hale and Carl Engstrom were held scoreless off the bench in their limited time on the floor.
Duke’s controlled style of play and coaching proved to be the difference as they were able to limit Alabama on the offensive side of the ball.
Although the Tide had several early turnovers in the first half they were able to even the turnover battle in the second. Duke finished with a 19-17 turnover margin.
Alabama was able to chip away at Duke’s lead in the second half cutting it to only 6 points multiple times under the five minute mark in the second, but turnovers and fouls stalled the Tide’s late comeback attempt.
Overall, there are several good takeaways for Alabama even though both teams looked pretty raw at times. The Tide still has another game against a good Drexel team that led No. 4 Arizona by 19 points at one point in the first half. Anthony Grant’s staff also proved that they can hang with a top-ranked opponent for close to 40 minutes even without their star scorer.
One thing is for sure, Alabama can’t lament over this loss. With a stacked non-conference schedule still to come in December and a chance at a third place finish in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament at stake, they could make or break their NCAA Tournament hopes before 2014.
Alabama will play Drexel to decide third place on Friday at 2:30pm CT. The game will be televised on ESPN2 with radio coverage provided by the CTSN.
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