When Nate Oats said yes to the idea of Alabama making the trip to the Pacific Northwest and playing a glorified home game against Gonzaga, he knew it would be an early test of where the Crimson Tide stood.
Alabama’s coach also knew his team could end up being a tough opponent for what was supposed to be a showcase event for Gonzaga.
“With the way we play, we can be dangerous at times with how many 3s that we shoot, and they knew that,” Oats said. “We hit a few tonight, and that helped a little bit.”
Jaden Shackelford scored 20 of his 28 points in the first half, Jahvon Quinerly and JD Davison both hit key 3-pointers, and No. 16 Alabama held off Gonzaga’s big second-half rally for a 91-82 win over the third-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (7-1) made 10 of their 13 3-pointers in the first half, led by Shackelford’s sharp shooting from deep. Alabama led by 16 at halftime and withstood every charge the Bulldogs made in the second half to hand Gonzaga its second loss in three games.
Gonzaga trailed by as many as 18 at the beginning of the second half but pulled within 76-72. The Bulldogs missed several chances to cut the deficit, and Davison and Quinerly hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Crimson Tide a big cushion, all but capping off a memorable day in the school’s athletics department. The men’s basketball win came hours after the football team won the SEC title in Atlanta, upsetting No. 1 Georgia.
Shackelford made 10 of 16 shots and all six of his 3-pointers came in the first half. He tied his career high in points, set during the 2019-20 season against Auburn. Davison finished with 20 points off the bench, and Quinerly added 17.
“Obviously, playing for coach who gives you the freedom and draws stuff up for you, so just going out there and taking the right shots,” Shackelford said. “When you take the right shots, you’re rewarded for it.”
Drew Timme led Gonzaga (7-2) with 23 points, but it was another sputtering offensive performance for the Zags, who lost to Duke last week in Las Vegas and looked lethargic in a win over Tarleton State earlier this week.
“Played much better defense the second half, played with way better energy, spirit and got us back into it,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “And then, again, we just weren’t good that last four minutes.”
Alabama led 53-35 in the opening seconds of the second half. Gonzaga pulled within 74-70 and 76-72 on Watson’s rebound basket with 5:27 left, the closest the Bulldogs had been since late in the first half.
Gonzaga was empty on its next three possessions, and Davison’s 3-pointer pushed the Alabama lead back to seven with 3:33 left before Quinerly added a 3 the next time down.
The Crimson Tide had missed five straight 3-point attempts before Davison’s make.
“Both those guys showed they’re big-time players,” Oats said. “It was time to step up and make some plays, and our defense got some stops.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.