No. 11 Alabama avoids upset, defeats South Dakota State


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama forward Noah Clowney (15) shoots a 3-pointer in the Crimson Tide’s 78-65 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Dec. 3 at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

On Saturday, No. 11 Alabama defeated the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 76-63 behind a pair of impressive performances from Noah Clowney and Mark Sears.

Clowney, a 6-foot-9 forward from Roebuck, South Carolina, scored the first 12 points for the Crimson Tide (7-1) to open the game — hitting four threes, including three consecutively in the first four minutes.

Sears, a transfer from Ohio, followed suit — scoring 12 first half points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from deep. The Muscle Shoals, Alabama, product finished with 19 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep.

It didn’t take long for a fiery Alabama start to be extinguished by the Jackrabbits, though.

After an 18-5 run over the final 6:30 in the first half, Eric Henderson’s team battled back — cutting a once 20-point lead to 42-35 after 20 minutes.

It didn’t get easier for the Crimson Tide.

After an array of turnaround fadeaways, contested threes, and cuts to the basket, South Dakota State finally took the lead at the 11:40 mark in the second half — securing a 51-50 advantage, its first since opening the matchup with the game’s first points.

“When shots stopped falling, we stopped playing like we should’ve been playing,” Clowney said. “Every possession matters and I feel like we didn’t show that tonight.”

Leading the way for the Jackrabbits (3-6) was Alex Arians, who scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

The 6-foot-4, Madison, Wisconsin, native torched Alabama from inside and out, giving backcourt matchups Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Bradley and Sears issues.

“They kind of stuck with their gameplan, we kind of stuck with our gameplan,” head coach Nate Oats said.

While it wasn’t pretty, the Crimson Tide eventually got the job done behind strong second half efforts from Clowney, Brandon Miller and Nimari Burnett, who combined for 26 of Alabama’s 36 points after the break.

After an explosive first-half, Clowney continued his offensive onslaught — finishing with a game high 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field and 5-for-12 beyond the arc.

“We recruited him as a shooter, you know, he shot it pretty well in high school,” Oats said. “Hopefully this will get his confidence going a little bit to where he can stretch the floor for us.”

After a lower-back injury in the win over then-No. 1 North Carolina, the freshman impressed once more with his defensive efficiency.

“For Clowney to step up and draw four charges with the tailbone bruise he has, that shows how tough of a kid he is,” Oats said.

For Miller, he was up to his old tricks — scoring 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting and 3-for-8 beyond the arc.

After avoiding a trap game, the Crimson Tide will now set its sights on a road matchup with the No. 1 Houston Cougars in a rematch of last season — an Alabama 83-82 victory in Tuscaloosa.

Tipoff between No. 11 Alabama and No. 1 Houston at the Fertitta Center is set for Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. CT on ABC.

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