The Alabama Crimson Tide 18th basketball team improved to 5-0 in the young season by beating 12th-ranked Michigan State 81-70 in Portland, Oregon at the Phil Knight Invitational.
Coach Nate Oats beat his mentor Tom Izzo in the first meeting of their careers after Oats worked as a high school coach at Izzo’s Michigan camps a decade ago. The Tide remained in contention with the same starting five of Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako and Nimari Burnett.
The Tide got off to a hot start and extended an 8-2 lead early on. The Spartans fought back with defense and toughness to take a 21-15 lead at 8:13 at halftime. With 6:28 remaining, State led 25-21 and had 9-9 free throws while Tide didn’t have a single free throw attempt. Miller took over and scored 11 points in the last five minutes, including a long three-pointer on the buzzer to put Bama 42-37 ahead at the break. Miller had 17 points as teams headed into the locker room, followed by Clowney with nine points and four rebounds.
In the first half, The Tide shot 16-33 for 48%, including 4-11 for 36% from three-point range and made 6-7 free throws. MSU scored in the first 13-29 for 45% with 0-8 from deep but stayed in the game for 79% at 11-14 from the charity streak.
Oats sent the same starters for the second half and quickly extended his lead. Burnett and Miller hit three pointers early and the lead was 50-41 with 17-10 in the game. Jahvon Quinerly had a nice sprint with an old-fashioned three-pointer play on a drive and a free throw, followed by a long three-pointer. With 12 minutes on the clock, the tide was 60-49.
Another three for Burnett increased the lead to 67-49 with 9:08 left. Miller drew his third foul and was replaced by Nick Pringle. State went on a 7-0 run to reduce the score to 67-56 with a 7-29 lead. The Spartans kept fighting, taking the lead into double digits a few times before Noah Gurley scored four straight free throws to give the tide some breathing room.
In the second half, Bama shot 12-30 for 40% with 4-12 from three and 11-17 from the free throw line. Overall, the tide finished 28-63 for 44%, 8-23 of three for 33%, and 17-24 for 70% from the free throw line. The team finished with 40 rebounds, 19 assists, five blocks, six steals and just 10 turnovers. State shot 11-33, 4-6 from deep in the second half and made 11-17 free throws. Overall, MSU shot just 38% from the field to 24-62 and 28% from three to 4-14. The Spartans were 18-25 from the free throw line. For the first time this season, Alabama lost the battle of the boards as MSU hit 42 rebounds with nine assists, 11 turnovers, five blocks and five steals.
As usual, Miller led by 24 points with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Miller shot just 8-19 in the game but made four of seven three-pointers. Gurley had a fine night with 12 points and four rebounds while scoring from the free throw line 4-4 to end the game. Clowney had 10 points with six rebounds, three assists and a block. Quinerly seems to be on the mend and also had double digits with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. Bediako and Burnett both had eight points while Sears threw in seven and shared the team lead in assists. He and Jaden Bradley each had five. Tyson Walker scored 21 for Michigan State and was doubled by AJ Hoggard with 18.
This is a very good win against a strong opponent who will be a résumé builder in March. The length, depth and defensive intensity of the tide will carry you far. Miller led the team with 35 minutes played and seven others played between 17 and 26 minutes. Rylan Griffen was only eight minutes away after playing about 20 minutes a game in the first four competitions.
Next up is Connecticut, which blasted host Oregon on Thursday, and we’ll have a report on the Huskies tomorrow. The game will air at 8:30 CT and will be shown on ESPN. Get on the moving train while there is still space. This Tide team should go far!