Fourth-ranked Alabama will look for its fourth win over a ranked team in less than a month when it faces No. 15 Gonzaga in the C.M. Newton Classic on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
The Crimson Tide (9-1) extended their winning streak to four games with a 91-88 win over visiting Memphis on Tuesday. Gonzaga (8-3) has won three straight after an 88-67 victory over visiting Northern Illinois on Monday.
Last year, then-No. 16 Alabama jumped out to a 51-35 halftime lead over then-No. 3 Gonzaga en route to a 91-82 win in the Battle in Seattle.
“Gonzaga’s been a Final Four team, No. 1-ranked team in the country and they’re gonna come in as underdogs in Birmingham, trying to upset us, which is a little bit different role,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We went up there last year with the same mindset we were gonna upset them. Guys are gonna have to understand we’re gonna get everybody’s best shot. We’re gonna have to play better.”
Alabama’s historic start has led the Crimson Tide to their highest ranking since December 2006.
After knocking off then-No. 12 Michigan State 81-70 on Nov. 24 and falling to then-No. 20 and still undefeated UConn 82-67 the next day, the Crimson Tide ended the Phil Knight Invitational two days later with a 103-101 four-overtime win over then-No. 1 North Carolina.
This past Saturday, Alabama won at then-No. 1 Houston 71-65 to become the first team to post two victories over the AP poll’s top-ranked team in a season before Jan. 1 in 57 years. Duke knocked off then-No. 1 UCLA on Dec. 10 and 11 in 1965.
Against Memphis, the Crimson Tide used a 7-0 run that started halfway through the second half to break a 57-57 tie and take a 64-57 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Freshman sensation Brandon Miller had 24 points, including 21 in the second half, and eight rebounds. Mark Sears added 18 points and Noah Clowney chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds.
Jaden Bradley had 10 points and five assists for the Crimson Tide, who shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 37.0 percent from 3-point range.
Miller leads the team in scoring (18.5 points per game) and is tied with Clowney for the lead in rebounding (8.4 per game). Sears averages 14.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, with Clowney adding 9.6 points per game.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga outscored the Huskies 52-37 in the second half to turn a close game at halftime into a rout.
Two-time All-American Drew Timme had game-high 26 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists, while Ben Gregg added 18 points and seven rebounds. Malachi Smith chipped in 14 points, six rebounds and three assists, with Hunter Sallis finishing with 10 points as Gonzaga extended the nation’s longest home win streak to 71 games.
“I think we were a little immature today,” Timme said. “We have to do better and we have to hold ourselves to a standard no matter who we play and we didn’t do that in the first half. I thought we responded well, but it shouldn’t have got to that and it’s something that we know is not OK.”
–Field Level Media