Alabama 85, ETSU 69: 3 things we learned as UA wins without John Petty, James Rojas

Cecil Hurt
Tidesports.com
Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford (5) shoots a three pointer over East Tennessee State guard Serrel Smith (1) in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

TUSCALOOSA - Alabama’s men’s basketball team (5-3) pulled away in the second half to defeat East Tennessee State 85-69 on Tuesday night. Here is what we learned.  

John Petty, James Rojas held out by Nate Oats 

John Petty, a senior forward who was a preseason All-SEC choice, and junior James Rojas, who started for UA Saturday against Western Kentucky, did not dress for the game and were not present in Coleman Coliseum. Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said before the game that it was an “in-house decision” not related to injury or illness. He also indicated that one or both could be available for the Dec. 29 SEC opener against Ole Miss. Even if the absence of Petty and Rojas is a brief one that has the desired effect of inspiring discipline or effort, the continuing lineup changes have been a feature of unexpected early-season problems. Alabama’s start has not been disastrous but it has been far from what was expected out of a preseason Top 25 team.

Jaylen Shackelford leads Tide

The shooting percentages from 3-point range improved as Alabama made 12 of 33 3-pointers against ETSU, thanks to a sizzling 8-for-13 night behind the arc from sophomore  Jaylen Shackelford. He finished with a game-high 26 points. In keeping with the mysteries of the basketball gods, he went 0-for-2 on two-points but it was hardly noticed.

Oats continues to say that Alabama has good shooters and there is no reason to panic. Instead, he has pointed to various causes for the slow start, particularly slow ball movement that is inhibiting Alabama from getting open looks. Shackelford showed no such shyness on Tuesday night. Of particular note in the ball movement department were Jahvon Quinerly’s nine assist. 

For the season, Alabama is now 29-of-113 (25.6 percent) on 3-pointers.

Herb Jones still critical for UA hopes

With two starters out, it didn’t help that senior swingman Herb Jones, who had shown strong offensive growth this season, had his worst start in recent memory in the first half. Foul trouble was a big part of that and Jones bounced back in the second half, finishing with eight points and six rebounds. UA’s up-and-down relationship with second-chance points was “on” again, with a 21-2 edge over ETSU.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt