Alabama defeats Gonzaga in “Battle in Seattle”

Guard Jaden Shackelford goes for a jumpshot during Saturdays win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs

Courtesy of UA Athletics

Guard Jaden Shackelford goes for a jumpshot during Saturday’s win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

It came down to the bitter end, but No. 16 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) held off No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-2) in a 91-82 shootout at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington.

Nobody on the floor performed as well as Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford. Shackelford finished the game with 28 points, with 20 coming in the first half. Shackelford shot 10-for-16 from the field and 6-for-8 from 3-point range. Shackelford also led the team with nine rebounds.

“Obviously it feels good to play well, but number one was going out there and getting a win,” Shackelford said. “Gotta give credit to my teammates for finding me, and playing for a coach who gives me freedom. You take the right shots, you get rewarded for it.”

His backcourt counterparts, guards Jahvon Quinerly and JD Davison, carried some of the load as well. Quinerly scored 17 points and Davison scored 20 points. Davison had his best deep-range shooting game of the season, finishing 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.

“It was JD’s first big game of his college career, and he answered the bell,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said.

Forward Charles Bediako finished with six blocks for the Crimson Tide.

As usual, forward Drew Timme was strong for the Bulldogs. Timme finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. It was his first double-double of the season. Freshman Chet Holmgren added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Holmgren also had four blocks.

The Zags took a page out of Alabama’s book, missing 12 of its 25 attempts from the free-throw line. Alabama shot 16-for-22.

But tonight was about the Crimson Tide, who won its biggest game up to this point in the season. Alabama now has a reason to believe it will be ranked in the top-10 when the rankings come out on Monday.

For the first 10 minutes of play, Alabama was hanging around. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs were tied at 20 with 11:08 to play in the first half.

The Crimson Tide got into a rhythm, taking a 38-31 lead after two Keon Ellis free-throws.

Then Alabama went into a new gear and bullied the Bulldogs, forcing turnovers and scoring on the other end.

The Crimson Tide finished the first half on a 13-4 run and took a 51-35 lead into the break.

Alabama scored the first basket of the second half, to extend the lead to 18, their largest of the night.

But as expected, the Bulldogs fought back.

Gonzaga went on a 11-2 run in just over three minutes to cut the Alabama lead back to single digits.

Alabama would respond with a jumper by Quinerly and a 3-pointer by Davison to move the lead back out to 14.

But the Zags didn’t go away.

After two made free-throws, the Bulldogs were down 70-63 with 9:13 to play. Nine minutes can feel like an eternity in a high-paced battle like the one in Seattle.

Gonzaga would continue to inch closer and closer when the Crimson Tide went cold.

Guard Julian Strawther knocked down two free-throws to trim the lead down to four, with over six and a half minutes still to play.

But Alabama showed some guts, going on a 12-2 run led by Quinerly and Davison. They combined for all 12 of those points to put the game on ice.

The Crimson Tide secured a nine-point win in front of over 18,000 fans over 2,500 miles away from home. That is a monumental win for this program.

“It’s a huge win for the program,” Oats said. “Gonzaga is one of the best programs in the country. I thought our defensive intensity was good. We obviously struggled with Timme a little bit. Big time game. Big time players step up. When we turn the ball over less and when the ball is moving, we tend to play a lot better. Really happy for our guys, who have bought into playing the right way.”

Oats said his team watched the first half of Alabama football’s SEC Championship win, but that his program has a lot of work to do compared to Nick Saban’s.

“It’s arguably the best athletic program in the country,” Oats said. “Football has won 18 of them [national championships], so we’ve got a little catching up to do. It’s a good day to be a Roll Tide fan for sure.”

\Alabama will return home to Coleman Coliseum to take on another ranked foe. The Crimson Tide will host No. 15 Houston on Dec. 11 at 9 p.m. CT on ESPN2.