Alabama Basketball: Crimson Tide zooms past Belmont in ‘Rocket City’

Alabama basketball showed Saturday what it can do when it plays Nate Oats basketball, as the Crimson Tide took down Belmont.

In a city known for explosive takeoffs, Alabama basketball followed the theme on Saturday. Fully playing like a team designed through the Nate Oats system of play, the Tide beat a good Belmont team, 92-72.

At 5-5 on the season going into Saturday’s game, the Crimson Tide needed a win. Getting one against a probable NCAA Tournament team was a boost. If Richmond can be handled after Christmas, 7-5 heading into SEC play is respectable.

Nate Oats has not had much luck in his first season in Tuscaloosa. Losing two guys to season-ending injuries and failing to obtain an NCAA waiver allowing transfer Jahvon Quinerly to play this season, can only be called bad luck. In the remaining group of players, Alex Reese, Herbert Jones and James ‘Beetle’ Bolden have battled injuries most of the season.

In a Saturday post-game interview, Oats said all three of the injured trio are nearing full recovery. The new Tide coach is comfortable going nine-deep into his roster. Given the pace of play his system requires, at least nine healthy, productive bodies are needed.

What Saturday showed is a roster becoming comfortable in the Nate Oats system. That system has been severely hampered by turnovers. Going into the Belmont game, the Crimson Tide was ranked No. 342, among the 350 Division One basketball teams, at 17.4 per game. The Tide committed only 13 turnovers Saturday and just five in the second half.

Pundits regularly describe the core of the Oats system as ‘fast-paced and quick shooting.’ What gets missed is the importance of spacing and passing. Success outside the arc and from dribble penetration requires spacing and ball movement, leading not just to shots, but good shots. When the Oats’ offense is clicking, it is a joy to watch. Saturday was the most joyful day of the season.

Six Crimson Tide players scored in double figures, led by freshman, Jaden Shackelford with 16 points. The Tide shot 44 percent from outside the arc. It also out-rebounded Belmont. Less noticed than the Tide’s 3-ball barrage were the 34 points in the paint.

John Petty scored 14 points and led the Tide with 11 rebounds. Perhaps most encouraging of the player stats were those by Kira Lewis Jr. The sophomore scored 15 points, had eight assists, seven rebounds and just one turnover in 35 minutes of play.

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Nate Oats believes his team is coming together. Fairly, his team could be 8-3 except for two, one-possession losses.


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