No. 10 Alabama’s trip to the ESPN Events Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., already is destined to be an unsuccessful one. Now it’s up to the Crimson Tide to determine just how bad the weekend will be.
Following a 72-68 upset loss to Iona and coach Rick Pitino on Thursday, Alabama (4-1) finds itself relegated to the consolation bracket and a matchup with Drake on Friday. The Bulldogs (3-1) lost 74-69 to Belmont in another first-round matchup.
The other consolation-round game features Miami, which isn’t expected to be a major player in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year, and North Texas, meaning the loss Thursday and the entire weekend won’t help Alabama’s metrics down the road.
Even so, Alabama coach Nate Oats hopes the sour taste of the loss does help his team improve on the court.
“We’ve got to change a little bit,” Oats said, according to al.com. “Some guys (have) got to play a little bit differently. … The ball has got to move better.”
The Crimson Tide had 13 turnovers and only seven assists and shot 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) from 3-point range on Thursday. The Gaels slowed down Alabama just enough in transition to make the Tide uncomfortable.
Oats also bemoaned his technical foul for arguing an out-of-bounds call in the second half. He indicated he threw a water bottle behind him and said it “was dumb on my part.”
Although Iona got two important points out of it as part of a 10-1 run that tied the score, Alabama recovered and took a six-point lead before the Gaels tied it again.
“We’ve got to do a better job understanding how teams are playing us and making an adjustment on our offensive end,” Oats said.
The Friday game would be a good time to start. Despite the loss, Drake limited similarly high-octane Belmont to the same numbers from beyond the arc: 5-for-17.
However, a four-minute scoring drought late in the game wiped out Drake’s one-point lead and enabled Belmont to advance to the semifinals.
“It was a disappointing night for us,” Drake coach Darian DeVries said. “I felt like we had a great week of practice.
“I thought we really stayed in there, kept fighting and gave ourselves a chance to pull out a win there late. Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short. Like I told the guys, we still have a tremendous opportunity.”
DeVries added, “It’s another chance to turn around, get a quick rest and be ready to go (Friday against) one of the best teams in the country. We’re excited about that. I think our guys will rebound and come out really ready to fight and give it all they’ve got.”
The Crimson Tide must try to slow down Tremell Murphy, who scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Belmont.
Alabama’s Jaden Shackelford had 19 points and Jahvon Quinerly contributed 15 vs. Iona, but they need more help the rest of the weekend if Alabama is to avoid the threat of another upset defeat.
–Field Level Media