Alabama Basketball: Nate Oats’ coaching took down No. 1

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second time in this young season, Alabama Basketball took down a No. 1 team. This time it came on the No. 1 team’s home floor. The Houston Cougars were not just the ranked No. 1 team, they were clearly college basketball’s best defensive team.

Going into the Saturday game against the Crimson Tide, Houston was No. 1 in Opponent Field Goal percentage at 30.8% and No. 1 in Scoring Defense at 47.3 points per game.

What Houston did on Saturday, they do in every game. They challenge the manhood of their opponent. Most of their foes wither. A young Alabama basketball team did not. Never quitting or backing down an inch, the Crimson Tide came back from a 15-point deficit with 17:13 to go in the second half.

It took Alabama four more minutes to cut the lead to single digits. After a three-pointer from Mark Sears at the 3:03 mark, the Crimson Tide took a one-point lead. Houston tied the game at 1:59, but the Cougars never regained a lead with Alabama pushing the final margin to six points in the 71-65 win.

Alabama won with Brandon Miller scoring only eight points, all from the foul line. From the floor, Miller was 0-for-8 in the game. Noah Clowney led the Crimson Tide in scoring and rebounding. Clowney had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Speaking after the game, Nate Oats said,

"This was one of those character wins that shows our guys are gonna keep fighting no matter what the score is."

Alabama Basketball Game-Changer Nate Oats

A reason why the Crimson Tide had to fight so hard was 12 first-half turnovers. To Nate’s credit, turnovers were not a problem in the second half, with Alabama committing just three. The Tide players making the most first-half turnovers were Jahvon Quinerly (4), Noah Clowney (3) and Noah Gurley (2). The two veterans had their second-half minutes curtailed. Instead, Oats went with freshmen Jaden Bradley (16 second-half minutes) and Rylan Griffen with 15 minutes.

Nate Oats also sat Brandon Miller for seven minutes of the second half. In the last seven and a half minutes of the game, Miller made eight key foul shots. Noah Clowney had an outstanding game in the team win, but the two backup freshmen were the main difference makers.

Jaden Bradley played 25 minutes, scoring 12 points, adding five rebounds, and zero turnovers. Rylan Griffen played 18 minutes, scoring six points and adding four rebounds, two assists and two steals – with one turnover.

Houston was not the game’s only tough defensive team. Alabama held Houston’s leading scorer, Marcus Sasser, to nine points, with most of the credit being earned by Nimari Burnett.

Talking about the Tide’s depth, Nate Oats said,

"Lots of guys stepped up, and stepped up at different points, I think it shows our depth."

It was Nate Oats’ use of the Tide’s depth that stands out. A solid claim can be made that Alabama has never before had such a depth of talent. The preseason question was could Oats spread minutes among so many players and sustain a high level of play throughout games. Oats pulled all the right strings on Saturday.

Next. Nick Saban and staff make recruiting push. dark

Next up for the Crimson Tide is Memphis, Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa. Unranked Memphis beat previously unbeaten Auburn on Saturday. Now at 8-2, Memphis will be ranked when it plays the Tide.