TUSCALOOSA, Ala - A career-best performance from freshman guard Jaden Shackelford, and hot shooting from beyond the arc in the second half, propelled Alabama men’s basketball over Richmond 90-78 on Sunday evening at Coleman Coliseum.
“Big win,” Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats said. “This is a quality team. We did not have the greatest start to the game, which typically we have been having good starts. We did not close the half good so we kind of challenged the [players] at halftime, let’s make sure our start to the second half and close to that half is better and I thought it was.”
The Crimson Tide missed four of its first six shots, before Shackelford took the game over.
He came off of the bench when Alabama was trailing 8-5, but within four minutes of stepping onto the court hit three 3-pointers that gave the Crimson Tide a lead it would never relinquish.
“It is easy to get in a rhythm when you have teammates and coaches who believe in you,” Shackelford said. “Once you see a shot go in, it gets easier and the rim gets bigger.”
The product of Hesperia, Calif., finished the first opening period with 14 points and the Crimson Tide needed every one of them as it held a 43-39 lead going into halftime. As a team, the Crimson Tide shot an abysmal 26 percent from 3-point range, only hitting 5-of-19.
It was a tale of two halves in terms of shooting from deep. Four of Alabama’s first five field goals of the second half were 3-pointers. Across the last 20 minutes, the Crimson Tide shot 63 percent, hitting 7-of-11.
With Alabama’s lead extended to 16 with 10 minutes left to play, the Spiders began to crawl their way back into the game, going on a 13-3 run that was sparked by 3-point baskets of their own by guard Jake Wojcik.
However, Shackelford was not done yet. He would proceed to score six of the Crimson Tide’s next eight points to regather help it re-gather control, sealing the victory. He finished with a career-best 28 points and six 3-pointers, while grabbing eight rebounds.
“It’s nice when Shack hits six threes that at least helps the offense out," Oats said. "He is getting more comfortable. He is always confident. I kind of told everyone coming in to this, that he might be one of, maybe, the best freshman I have coached. I think everyone is starting to see what I am talking about."
Guards Kira Lewis, Jr and John Petty, Jr. both tallied up 17 points each to help the Crimson Tide reach the 90-point mark during its third straight game since the 2001-2002 season.
Forward Herbert Jones reached the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“Herb is getting better every game,” Oats said. “It is the first double-double of his career, which is shocking to me. To me, I think he should be a double-double machine if he is healthy and out of foul trouble. Hopefully, Herb goes a tear here with the double-doubles.”
Defensively, the Crimson Tide forced 13 turnovers and held the Spiders to only 39 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range.
Alabama (7-5) was also able to the battle on the glass, 49-36. Junior guard Jacob Gilyard led Richmond (10-3) with 21 points.
After starting the season 2-4, Oats and his team now find themselves winners of five of their last six, with conference play starting Saturday at Florida.
“Winning tonight gives us a lot of confidence,” Jones said. “We talked about it as a team that we needed to get this win going into conference play, knowing we have a pretty good opponent in Florida coming up.”