No. 18 Alabama sets sights toward Jacksonville State

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

Nate Oats’ Crimson Tide team is 3-0 to start the season for the second consecutive year. 

After defeating the University of South Alabama Jaguars 65-55 on Tuesday night, Alabama men’s basketball now turns its attention towards a Friday night home matchup with Jacksonville State University (1-1) — a program coming off a 21-11 season under head coach Ray Harper. 

Friday’s contest will mark the third straight year the two teams have squared off in the regular season, with the Crimson Tide reigning victorious in both games — securing an 81-57 victory in Oats’ second year at the helm in 2020-21 and overcoming a tightly contested 65-59 matchup over the Gamecocks last season. 

It’s been all about the defense so far for Alabama in 2022-23, holding all three opponents to under 60 points to start the season for the first time since 2016-17 — limiting South Alabama to 29% on field goals and an 8.7% 3-point mark from the field in its most recent performance. 

After a 111-45 victory over Shorter University to start the season, the Gamecocks currently sit at .500 after Monday night’s 67-60 loss to the University of Illinois-Chicago. The Crimson Tide currently lead the all-time series matchup 13-1, with Jacksonville State’s lone victory being on Dec. 6, 1952.  

It’s been tough sledding offensively for the Gamecocks, who currently rank 341st in 3-point percentage, 225th in adjusted efficiency, 323rd in effective field goal percentage and 323rd in turnovers per game. 

In what would normally be considered a “trap game,” Alabama’s new-look roster refuses to be complacent. 

“Jacksonville State’s tough. They’re well coached,” Oats said on Thursday. “Ray [Harper] has won everywhere he’s been. They’re going to test us more on the glass than the first three games […] We’re going to have to rebound it well, we’re going to have to play defense, they have some shooters. We’re going to have to play well.” 

Returning for the Gamecocks is senior point guard Demaree King, who set a Jacksonville State school record last season with 84 three-pointers. Standing at 6-foot, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native is currently averaging 12.5 points per game to go along with four assists and three rebounds — another early season test for Alabama’s defensive backcourt.  

The Gamecocks were one of the slowest playing teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference a season ago — ranking 283rd in adjusted tempo. Through two games, however, Ray Harper’s squad appears to have turned on the jets, currently sitting at 168th nationally — a 115-position climb.  

For the Crimson Tide, a new wrinkle to the offense may be in store moving forward — the earlier than expected addition of point guard Jahvon Quinerly. 

“Obviously to start we’ll bring Jahvon off the bench, and he’ll be on a minutes restriction Friday night,” Oats said. “We were just trying to get his feet wet a little bit against [South Alabama]. […] He’s been cleared by the doctor for a couple weeks. His knee is close to being 100 percent, but mentally, you’ve got to be able to trust it, too. The mental part of the game is a big deal, particularly with him, so we want to get him some confidence.” 

After averaging 13.8 points, 4.2 assists and three rebounds a season ago, the fifth-year senior will look to bounce back with a solid campaign in 2022-23 after a devastating ACL tear against the University of Notre Dame in March. 

One thing’s for certain — no team in America will look forward to facing a potentially healthy Quinerly alongside explosive offensive counterparts Brandon Miller, Mark Sears, Rylan Griffen and Jaden Bradley. 

Tipoff from Coleman Coliseum is set for Friday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]