How Jahvon Quinerly injury affected how Notre Dame defended Alabama basketball in NCAA Tournament

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

SAN DIEGO — Notre Dame only had to defend Alabama basketball's scoring duo of Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly for three minutes and 29 seconds. 

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey knows his defense is fortunate that it didn't have to take much more than that. 

Quinerly went to the ground and immediately looked to be in serious pain early in the 78-64 loss to Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Viejas Arena. He was grabbing his left knee and had to be helped off the court, walking quite gingerly. 

Quinerly went immediately to the locker room and did not return to the game. He was ruled out in the first half. Soon after, he was using crutches and had a cast around his left leg. 

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That left Shackelford behind as the main focal point for Notre Dame's defense. 

"Having the two of them in there together is what really makes them go," Brey said. "So that really changed them." 

And it changed Notre Dame's task. The Fighting Irish no longer had to worry about multiple facets of Alabama's offense. Sure, JD Davison replaced Quinerly and Keon Ellis was on the floor, too. But neither seemed to scare Brey as much as the idea of Quinerly and Shackelford on the floor at the same time. 

"Our defense – we knew a little bit more what to do defensively when he was out because there was really only one guy really going," Brey said. 

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Knowing what to do defensively seemed to help. Shackelford couldn't get much going offensively. He had 13 points on the day as he went 4-for-17 from the field and 2-for-10 from 3-point range. Shackelford did have seven rebounds, though. 

That meant he had to play 38 minutes. Only Ellis had more with 39. 

Brey thought Alabama needing to rely heavily on Shackelford wore on the guard. 

"He's had to play the whole time and be the playmaker the whole time when they really have two playmakers, like we do," Brey said. "They got cut down to one playmaker. And he was exhausted." 

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Davison also couldn't help fill the scoring void. He saw 36 minutes with Quinerly out, and he finished with 11 points as he went 5-for-9 from the field. Davison had nine assists and six turnovers. 

"We definitely felt the impact of losing him," Ellis said. "No one expected that three minutes into the game. So then it was just was JD's turn to step up and fill that role. Like coach said, life happens. You never know when your time is coming. It was definitely a big loss for us." 

The extent of Quinerly's injury was not yet known as of the postgame press conference when Alabama coach Nate Oats spoke. Alabama is set to fly home Friday night. Quinerly will get an MRI soon after that. 

The doctor didn't think it was good, though. 

"Disappointed for him because he's going to graduate this spring," Oats said. "He was going to test the draft process. His plan was to go be a professional." 

Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.