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Alabama Basketball Looking to Find Its Stroke Inside Hinkle Fieldhouse Versus UCLA

In its return game to the iconic venue, the Crimson Tide wants to make sure the same mistakes don't happen again

Alabama basketball returns to the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday evening for a chance to earn a spot in the Elite Eight when it faces off with UCLA (6:15 p.m, TBS). 

The Crimson Tide previously escaped Iona in the Round of 64, 68-55, last Saturday in the same building. However, it didn't quite deliver the same shooting performances that it saw in Bankers Life Fieldhouse a 96-77 thrashing of Maryland. 

For starters, Alabama only shot 16 three-pointers against the Gaels, which was a season-low. Its five makes were the second fewest of the year. From the free-throw line, the Crimson Tide was 13-of-23. 

Guards Jaden Shackelford and John Petty Jr. combined to go 2-of-10 from three-point range compared to 9-of-17 versus Maryland. 

Alabama coach Nate Oats spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon before the Crimson Tide's practice in 70,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, and offered the poor-shooting effort last weekend up to first-game jitters.

"I think it's important to get in and get shots up at the gym you'll be playing at," Oats said. "We are practicing at Lucas Oil Stadium now. Now we aren't going to play their in our next game but if we win, we will. I think as long as the shooters are comfortable with it. Hinkle is a great place to play but I think it just had more to do with first-game jitters than Hinkle itself. 

"It won't be our first game in there. Hopefully we'll get to making some shots in Hinkle. I think it's good that we have played there already and we are going back. They should have a feel for the gym the second time around because we've been there already."

Not everyone shot below average in the 9,100-seat Hinkle versus Rick Pitino and Iona. Sophomore guard Jahvon Quinerly dropped 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and connected on his lone three-point attempt. 

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The sun-streaked floor didn't seem to bother senior wing Herb Jones, either. The Greensboro, Ala. product poured in 20 points and shot 53 percent from the floor (8-of-15). 

Senior forward Alex Reese also hit two clutch three-pointers in the second half to seal the victory. 

“I feel like it’s a preference for some people,” Quinerly said. “For me, honestly I do feel like the venue helps. It could be a better shooting night in a venue. I like playing at Hinkle. I’ve played there while I was at Villanova in the Big East, so I kind of have some experience there. I like shooting in that gym.”

It will also be the second game for UCLA inside the legendary venue as well. The Bruins defeated BYU, 73-62, in the first round there last Saturday. 

Coach Mick Cronin's group shot a blistering 42 percent from deep (8-of-19), while guard Johnny Juzang scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. 

Just over 1,200 fans are allowed into Hinkle Fieldhouse due to COVID-19 guidelines. Against Iona, it was like an Alabama home game with Crimson Tide fans filling the upper deck. 

On Sunday, Quinerly and company hope to see another sea of crimson in the stands to fuel it to its first regional final since 2004.

“It did kind of surprise me, especially at Hinkle,” Quinerly said. “I looked up and it’s all red. It was literally all red when I looked up. That was great. Even at the SEC tournament, there were a lot of fans in there. I feel like their energy, the energy that they bring to the game, it feeds off on the program. When we hear those loud roars after a run, it only motivates us to keep going."