Alabama men's basketball defeats Jacksonville State 65-59 in closer than anticipated game

Ehsan Kassim
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama basketball beat Jacksonville State 65-59 in a tighter-than-anticipated non-conference game Saturday night at Coleman Coliseum.

The Crimson Tide did not take a double-digit lead until there were five minutes left as the Gamecocks clung to a 41-39 lead before Alabama accelerated for a 21-3 run to put it away.

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JSU then cut the lead down to five with under a minute left.

"That was a tough-fought game," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "... I anticipated them playing hard. They caused us some problems. They went on some runs. We didn't seem like we had the energy we needed at the beginning of the game."

Keon Ellis led the way for Alabama with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Jahvon Quinerly added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Darian Adams led JSU with 18 points and seven rebounds and Jalen Gibbs had 12 points.

Alabama (9-2) bounced back from a loss to Memphis on Tuesday, while Jacksonville State fell to 5-6.

Oats said assistant coach Antoine Pettway missed the game due to a medical issue.

"We just wish him well," Oats said. "Hope he gets back soon. We anticipate him being back soon, possibly by Tuesday, for sure after Christmas."

Second-half drama

With Jacksonville State leading 41-39 at the under-12-minutes timeout, the Alabama defense ramped up its pressure.

The Crimson Tide forced the Gamecocks to turn the ball or shoot deep in the shot clock, propelling an 21-3 run to make it 60-44, the largest lead for Alabama, with 5:09 left.

Charles Bediako played a big role in those defensive stops, finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and five blocks in 21 minutes. He had four blocks in the second half.

"Our biggest emphasis was defense," Bediako said. "Especially the rebounds, because last game against Memphis it was a little tough. Defense was our biggest emphasis the last two days of practice. I think that helped me get prepared for today."

Alabama kept JSU from scoring for a span of 3:36, while making 9 of 11 baskets from the field in that span.

JSU then cut into the lead, narrowing the margin to 64-59 with a minute left, but a key block from Darius Miles prevented the Gamecocks from pulling even closer.

Shooting woes

If it weren't for Ellis, Alabama would have been in serious trouble in the first half. Ellis ended the half with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.

The rest of the team shot 5-of-21 from the field for 17, including 1-of-11 from 3-point range.

"Just getting ready whenever it's my time," Ellis said. "I guess I just hit a couple of shots and went to feeling it. Just trying to help my teammates by making shots, even if the offense isn't going."

Jaden Shackelford, who came into the game averaging 18.2 points per game, was shutout on 0-of-6 shooting.

"It was a bad shooting night for us," Oats said. "You're going to have some of those. But if you can win the glass, play better on defense, you can still win those."

The Crimson Tide shot 50% from the field in the second half despite shooting 31% from three.

Quinerly scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, while Miles had all his 10 points in the closing half. 

Jacksonville State controls first half

The Gamecocks looked like the better team in the first half. They led for nearly half of the first 20 minutes. JSU used a 15-2 run to propel itself to its largest lead, 20-13 with 7:47 left in first half.

The Crimson Tide took the lead back on a 3-point buzzer beater by Quinerly.

Jacksonville State shot just 38% from the field and 29% from 3-point range, but limited Alabama to 32% and 24%.

The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Crimson Tide 22-18.

Jalen Gibbs led JSU with nine first half points, making two 3-pointers. Gibbs shot 0-for-3 in the second half and only had three points.

Up next

Alabama will play Davidson in the C.M. Netwton Classic in Birmingham at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21.

JSU will hit the road to play Little Rock at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21.

Contact Ehsan Kassim at 256-300-5313 or ekassim@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim.