No. 8 Alabama grabs historic victory over No. 1 Houston


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama forward Noah Clowney (15) reaches for a rebound in No. 8 Alabama’s win at No. 1 Houston.

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

HOUSTON — During an unusually hot early-December slugfest in southeast Texas, Alabama did the unthinkable — overcoming a 15-point deficit on the road to defeat their second top-ranked team of the year.  

On Saturday, the No. 8 Crimson Tide made history, becoming only the second team in AP poll history to defeat two No. 1 teams in the same regular season with a 71-65 victory over Kelvin Sampson’s Houston Cougars. 

Leading the charge for Alabama was freshman Noah Clowney, who scored 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting. He nailed 2-of-6 shots from beyond the arc and gave the Cougars all sorts of trouble defensively with his length and versatility.  

A four-star prospect hailing from Roebuck, South Carolina, the 6-foot-10 forward continues his unexpected onslaught in Tuscaloosa — impressing with his toughness, ability to stretch the floor, and his calm-and-collected aptitude for stepping up in the biggest moments.  

“To be honest, to me, I don’t really care about the numbers,” Clowney said after the game. “I want to beat every team that steps foot in front of us.” 

Joining Clowney on the big stage was fellow freshman Jaden Bradley, who showed why he’s considered a top guard prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft — scoring 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting while grabbing five boards.  

While the IMG Academy product flashed for the Crimson Tide on offense, it was his defense that caught the attention of spectators — helping stymie Houston guard Marcus Sasser to 9 points on 2-for-11 shooting and baiting relentless Cougar defender Tramon Mark into two of his five fouls.  

“When we recruited [Bradley], he was a highly rated point guard because he’s a winner and knows how to play,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “He makes winning plays. Defensively, offensively, he’s got a high I.Q. He’s a winner and he showed it.”  

Unlike his freshmen counterparts, it was a rough day for projected lottery pick Brandon Miller — scoring eight points on 0-for-8 shooting from the field, failing to muster any sort of rhythm on offense, and struggling with Houston’s physicality on both ends of the floor. 

With the game on the line, however, it was Miller who was tasked with sealing the game for the Crimson Tide — drilling four free throws during the final 27 seconds to seal a 6-point victory at the Fertitta Center.  

“Huge program win,” Oats said. “Not sure how many teams get the chance to play two No. 1 teams in non-conference, let alone beat them.” 

While Alabama continues its hot streak, the fourth-year head coach knows there’s work to be done. 

“That’s a tough team, you have to give Houston a ton of credit. They give you everything you can handle. Our offense was looking like a disaster most of the game, that’s a total credit to them,” Oats said. “We’ve got to take care of business, no matter who it is. We can’t have a letdown with Memphis. Memphis is good. We have to have the same mentality no matter who it is.” 

In the “space city”, the Crimson Tide shot for the stars — but their journey doesn’t get any easier from here. Now, Nate Oats’ team must combat complacency in their quest to join the ranks of the nation’s elite.  

Tipoff for No. 8 Alabama vs. Memphis in Coleman Coliseum is set for 8:00 p.m. CT Tuesday night on ESPN2. 

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]