Alabama basketball opens season with strong win over Longwood

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats wore his usual plaid blazer, but the Crimson Tide looked almost entirely different Monday from the squad which last took the court in March.

Even center Charles Bediako, one of the few returners, has a different number.

Ah, but change can be a good thing. Outside of poor 3-point shooting and a few offensive miscues, this group showed plenty of reasons for optimism in the season opener. Look no further than the 67 rebounds.

Dominating in the paint against outmatched Longwood, the No. 19 Crimson Tide defeated the Lancers 75-54 at Coleman Coliseum.

Here are our takeaways from the game between Alabama (1-0) and Longwood (0-1):

Brandon Miller has solid start

Brandon Miller, a five-star freshman forward, began his collegiate career with a double-double. It's clear he's going to have a chance to make an impact on both ends of the floor.

He could have shot better at times, particularly from beyond the arc, but Miller still showed plenty of skill on the offensive end. His dunk with Alabama up big in the final two minutes riled up the crowd.

Miller finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds in his debut, as he shot 6-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-6 from deep.

"He can actually shoot the ball really well," Oats said. "He'll have a lot better nights than he had tonight."

3-point shooting still lacking

Alabama isn't off to a good start from beyond the arc.

After only hitting 3-for-22 in the exhibition game a week ago, the Crimson Tide had another abysmal 3-point shooting performance. Alabama went 3-for-28 from beyond the arc against Longwood.

It didn't cost Alabama the win, but that number must improve soon.

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Freshmen Rylan Griffen, Noah Clowney stand out

Rylan Griffen and Noah Clowney, two four-star freshmen, don't have the the five-star pedigree some of their teammates had in the 2022 class, but Clowney and Griffen showed right away they can be impact players this season.

On a night when many Alabama players were struggling to hit threes, Griffen was the first to break through to hit one. Then Clowney hit the next, much later in the game.

After his first-half 3-pointer, Griffen got a steal on the next possession and drove down for a layup. Griffen led all Alabama scorers with 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

"Rylan Griffen just has no fear," Oats said. "He's going to make shots at a way higher clip than he did tonight."

Clowney's 3-pointer arrived on the possession after a dunk. His defensive efforts were more impressive. He grabbed 11 boards to go with nine points.

"I would say he is the X-factor," Griffen said.

Injury report

The Crimson Tide didn’t have Charles Bediako or Darius Miles for the exhibition game against Southern Illinois last weekend, as they were dealing with injuries, but both returned for the season opener.

But guard Dom Welch, the St. Bonaventure transfer, did not play. He is dealing with a lower body injury, per a team spokesperson, and is considered day-to-day.

Guard Jahvon Quinerly did not play, as expected. He is working to come back from an ACL injury he sustained in the season finale last year. Quinerly seems to be ahead of schedule, based on what Oats has said about his progress.

What's next?

The Crimson Tide has another home game vs. Liberty on Friday (7 p.m., SEC Network+). Then a road trip to South Alabama and a home game with Jacksonville State next week.

The games are tune-ups before Alabama heads to Portland, Oregon for a matchup against Michigan State on Thanksgiving (9:30 p.m. CT, ESPN) as part of the Phil Knight Invitational.