Alabama Head Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried has designated this segment of the Crimson Tide's schedule as "Champions' Row," akin to "Murderers' Row." Beginning with Austin Peay, every team on Alabama's schedule until the start of Southeastern Conference play falls into a "Champion" category of some sort. Gottfried said those six teams "have either won their league, won their league championship tournament, or was picked to win their league this year."
And Gottfried believes at the end of the season that Alabama's win over Austin Peay will be regarded as a quality victory for the Tide. Prior to the start of the season, few would have considered the quality of Bama's schedule to have any significance. Most pre-season polls picked Alabama very low. However, those were the same polls that picked the Tide very high last season, and there are indications the pollsters could be as wrong this year as they were last pre-season.
Alabama's win improved the Tide to 4-2. Crimson Tide players (along with other University students) will be involved in final examinations this week. At the end of exam week Bama will play an exhibition game against Athletes In Action at 6 p.m. CST Saturday, December 13. The Tide returns to play-for-real on December 16, hosting Tennessee-Chattanooga at 7 p.m. CST.
Saturday's game was not nearly as close as the final 18-point margin. Bama opened up as much as a 22-point lead in the first half and flirted with a 30-point advantage in the second half before a sloppy final 10 minutes of substitutions made the score more respectable for Austin Peay. Alabama jumped out to a 9-0 lead, had a 30-10 advantage with less than three minutes to play in the first half, and went to intermission with the score doubled on the Governors at 38-19. Alabama extended the lead to 29 early in the second half.
Gottfried said he was "pleased with the intensity and the defense. And we executed our offense well, although we missed some short shots." Bama held Austin Peay to 32.7 per cent shooting and only 17.6 per cent from three-point range. Bama hit 42.6 per cent (48.4 per cent in the first half) and was better from three-point range, 46.7 per cent. About the only poor part of Bama's game was three throw shooting, where the Tide hit only 12 of 21 (57.1 per cent).
Earnest Shelton continued his hot shooting for Alabama. The junior guard was the exception to Bama's poor free throw shooting as he connected on all six opportunities. He also hit six-of-14 from the field, including five-of-10 three-pointers for a game-high 23 points.
"We were able to run our offense and get some shots for Earnest and he executed," Gottfried said. Shelton is averaging a Bama-best 16.8 points per game.
Bama built its first half lead behind Shelton (who had 10 points in the opening stanza) and Kennedy Winston, who had 12 points at intermission and 15 for the game. Winston hit six-of-11 from the field, including two-of-three three-point shots, and was good on three-of-five foul shots. Winston added five rebounds.
True freshman Jermareo Davidson got his first starting assignment and responded well, scoring 11 points and pulling down five rebounds. Gottfried pointed out that starting the 6-10 Davidson instead of 6-9, 190-pound Evan Brock enables Alabama to have a more natural defensive match-up since 6-8, 230-pound Chuck Davis can take the power forward while Davidson takes the center.
Davis had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds before fouling out. Both teams had 40 rebounds.
Point guard Antoine Pettway had only two points, but he's doing the job of a point guard. He took only three shots, but dealt out five assists and had only one turnover while making two steals.
Adrian Henning led Austin Peay with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but hit only five-of-18 field goals.
Alabama had only 12 turnovers, while the Governors were guilty of 18 miscues. Bama turned the Austin Peay turnovers into 24 points, while the visitors scored only 10 points off Alabama's errors.