Nate Oats Gets First Win at Alabama with 78-59 Victory over FAU

Alabama Athletics
Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama basketball picked up its first win of the Nate Oats era Monday night with a 78-59 victory over Florida Atlantic.

The win was fueled by consistent free throw shooting and the Crimson Tide having a strong outing on defense. Solid performances by redshirt-freshman forward Javian Davis and freshman Jaden Shackelford propelled the offense forward, giving Alabama a big night on both ends of the court.

“Well I thought it was a great win,” Oats said. “We needed it in a big way. I thought our guys stepped up. I was really happy with the effort.”

Freshmen guard Jaden Shackelford impressed with 17 points scored, including going 4-7 from beyond the arc. The biggest surprise performance of the game was Davis, who scored 19 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double in his first career start.

For sophomore guard Kira Lewis, Jr., it was business as usual. Lewis registered 16 points on the night along with six rebounds.

As a unit, Alabama improved at the free-throw line, an area that the team struggled with against Penn. From the line, the Crimson Tide shot 17-22 (77 percent).

Alabama started off the game sluggish, allowing FAU to keep the game close. In the first half, the Crimson Tide had 10 turnovers, giving the Owls eight points off of the sacrificed possessions.

As the half progressed, though, Alabama started to gain momentum. Midway through the period, the Crimson Tide’s lead had grown to 10 points. From there, it would only increase.

In the last four minutes of the half, the Crimson Tide went on an 18-2 run, propelled by nine-consecutive free throws. At the break, Alabama held a 43-25 decisive lead.

After a back-and-forth affair to start the second half, the Crimson Tide’s defense battened down the hatches, forcing the Owls to a 2:58 scoring drought. The offense wasn’t able to capitalize, though, and leading to a 1-8 trend at the 11:13 point of the second half.

After a scoring drought of over four minutes, Davis finally got the and one, giving Alabama the 58-42 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.

After Davis’ three points, the Crimson Tide didn’t look back. Alabama went on a 16-3 run that secured the game, giving the Crimson Tide the 78-59 victory and the first win of the Nate Oats era.

After a disappointing loss last week to Penn and even more disappointing news of redshirt-sophomore Jahvon Quinerly’s NCAA appeal being denied, a win was exactly what Alabama needed.

“I thought it was huge,” Oats said. “We needed it. We needed some good news for the program. It would’ve been bad to go 0-2. You know to be honest with you that loss—you know that opener against Penn—it gave us a wake-up call.

“You know 1-1–it would be great to be 2-0 going into our first road game, but I think the guys are playing well, I think they’re getting some confidence knowing that if they’re playing the way we’re asking them to and give an effort that then we’re gonna be in games and can win big games. It was a big win for us. I thought it was huge that we got the win and played as hard and aggressive and great on defense as we did tonight.”

With Monday’s development of Quinerly not being eligible to play this season, Davis wasn’t told he was going to be the starter until earlier the same morning.

“I didn’t find out until this morning,” Davis said. “It was good. I just feel — I just wanted to bounce back from the loss we took last week, so I just felt like me and my teammates came as a group and decided to get gritty and play more intensely— more physicality — so I felt like it was good.”

Turnovers continued to be a problem for Alabama, which lost 19, but the defense helped minimize the damage. FAU turned over the ball 11 times themselves, resulting in 11 points for the Crimson Tide

Alabama moved to 1-1, while FAU dropped to a 1-2 overall record.

Up next, Alabama travels to Rhode Island to take on the Rams on Friday. The game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT tip (NBCSN).