TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Yeah, Noah Clowney is just fine.
There was concern about the Alabama true freshman after he missed last week’s four-overtime thriller against then-No. 1 North Carolina with a tailbone contusion.
On Saturday against North Dakota State, Clowney looked healthy.
Did he ever.
Clowney was 8 of 17 shooting, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range, and led Alabama with 22 points in a 78-65 win at Coleman Coliseum.
“I was sore, but I could play,” said Clowney, who practiced with the team just once this week. “I wasn’t going to play any different than I usually do.”
The freshman missed his first 3-point attempt, but converted on his next four to account for Alabama’s first points. He added a big dunk for good measure as the Crimson Tide raced out to a 12-point lead.
“We know he can make them,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said of Clowney. “We recruited him as a shooter. Hopefully this will get his confidence going to where he can stretch the floor for us.”
Not only was Clowney a boost for Alabama behind the arc, but he was a force in the paint. He pulled down nine rebounds and drew four charge calls, despite just a week removed from taking a hard fall against North Carolina.
“My nose was bleeding a little bit,” Clowney said on one of the charges he took.
Clowney’s lower body was aided by wearing special padding that the team trainer ordered. That helped softened the blow of the charges he took.
“Ya’ll saw the falls he took. For him to take four charges with his tailbone as bruised as it is, that shows how tough of a kid he is,” Oats said.
Not to be outdone by Clowney’s performance, Mark Sears got into the action with a 3-point barrage in the first half.
He got a nice pass from Jahvon Quinerly and sank his first basket of the game. The duo connected again on Alabama’s next trip down court with Sears hitting a 3-pointer from three feet beyond the arc. Sears hit another trey a few seconds later from even further back.
Sears wasn’t far behind Clowney, finishing with 19 points.
But the spotlight was on Clowney, who has struggled with 3-point shooting. He was 2 of 14 before Saturday. He was 5 of 10 shooting and 4 of 7 on 3-pointers in the first half.
“I had a rough start shooting the ball to start the season,” Clowney said. “I think they scouted that and felt like they could let me take those shots.”
He fell back into a familiar pattern in the second half, hitting just one 3-pointer in five tries and was 3 of 7 shooting overall. Although he missed five straight 3-pointers during that one rough stretch, Clowney seemed to find some confidence.
“I told him ‘I don’t care, when you are open you have to shoot the ball,’” Oats said. “I encouraged him to shoot it and I’m glad I did. We needed all 15 of those points off the threes.”
Alabama’s going to need that type of performance from Clowney with the games it has on the horizon—a road game with No. 1 Houston, a home game with a strong Memphis team and a meeting with No. 14 Gonzaga in Birmingham after that.
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