Men’s basketball looks to get season back on track against No. 13 LSU

Alabama guards Jahvon Quinerly (13) and Jaden Shackelford (5) talk with Alabama head coach Nate Oats during Alabama’s matchup with Auburn on Jan. 11.

David Gray / CW

Alabama guards Jahvon Quinerly (13) and Jaden Shackelford (5) talk with Alabama head coach Nate Oats during Alabama’s matchup with Auburn on Jan. 11.

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

The Alabama men’s basketball season has reached its tipping point.

After three straight losses, the now-unranked Crimson Tide (11-6) return home to take on the No. 13 LSU Tigers (15-2).

It has been a season full of ups and downs for Alabama. The Crimson Tide started the season 8-1 and were ranked sixth in the country. Now Alabama is 11-6.

“It’s a long season,” Alabama guard Keon Ellis said. “Mistakes are going to be made. We know what we’re capable of. We have some great wins, just with some bad losses.”

The Tigers are in a similar situation. Like Alabama, they started well. The Tigers were 12-0 in nonconference play but have since lost two SEC games, including their most recent matchup at home to Arkansas on Jan. 15.

Even with the Tigers’ two SEC losses, Alabama is more desperate for a win.

After the Crimson Tide’s disappointing loss to Missouri, they have lost to No. 2 Auburn and Mississippi State by a combined 6 points.

After declaring the game in Starkville a “must-win,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats was disappointed.

“We’ve got to get our stuff in order,” Oats said. “We got to get to the point of playing hard every day. LSU’s probably not exactly what we need, but the SEC doesn’t present an easy schedule. I think if we can make them play in the half court, we’ll be alright.”

In order to take down the Tigers, the shots will have to start falling. The Crimson Tide hasn’t made more than 10 3-pointers since the Davidson game on Dec. 21.

Guard Jaden Shackelford is shooting 11-for-43 from deep in the last five games. Guard Jahvon Quinerly is shooting less than 25% from 3-point range this season.

It won’t be easy against the Tigers, who are the top team in the country in defensive efficiency. LSU has only given up 70 or more points once this season. The Tigers are also first in the country in opponents’ field goal percentage and steals per game.

“We definitely have to become tougher,” Oats said. “We need to see guys being more physical, hustle after plays. We’ve seen it in practice, but we need to see it in games.”

On offense, LSU is a balanced attack. Transfers Tari Eason and Xavier Pinson combine for over 26 points per game. Eason transferred from Cincinnati, and Pinson played three years for Missouri.

In the middle is veteran Darius Days, who is averaging 14 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

LSU head coach Will Wade is in his fifth season with the Tigers and has rejuvenated the program, holding a 101-44 record in Baton Rouge. In March 2019, Wade was indefinitely suspended after reportedly discussing a “large offer” to a recruit on an FBI wiretap. He was reinstated during the ongoing investigation.

It’s do-or-die time for the Crimson Tide.

“We’ve got to play with a sense of urgency,” Oats said. “If we give max effort for 40 minutes, we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win.”

Last season Alabama beat LSU three times, including in the SEC Tournament championship game.

The Tigers and Crimson Tide will play in their first of two meetings at Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.