(All times listed are Central)
Friday, Nov. 24 Games
Mercer vs. Tennessee State, 11 a.m., Flo Hoops
Southeastern Louisiana at Western Michigan, 1:30 p.m., Flo Hoops
Alabama vs. Ohio State, 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Oregon vs. Santa Clara, 8:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Saturday, Nov. 25 Games
Loser of Mercer/Tennessee State vs. loser of Southeastern Louisiana/Western Michigan, 10 a.m.
Winner of Mercer/Tennessee State vs. winner of Southeastern Louisiana/Western Michigan , 12:30 p.m.
Loser of Alabama/Ohio State vs. loser of Santa Clara/Oregon, 3 p.m.
Winner of Alabama/Ohio State vs. winner of Santa Clara/Oregon, 6 p.m.
EMERALD COAST CLASSIC BEGINS FRIDAY: With the first round of the Emerald Coast Classic finished, the favorites won in each of the first-round games.
Alabama beat Mercer, 98-67
Oregon beat Tennessee State, 92-67
Santa Clara beat Southeastern Louisiana, 65-63
Ohio State beat Western Michigan, 73-56
Santa Clara is 5-0, while Alabama and Oregon are 4-0. Ohio State is 3-1. The winner of the Emerald Coast Classic will have a lot of early-season momentum and will have to beat two really good teams to earn the championship.
Semifinal games will be on Friday, with Alabama vs. Ohio State playing at 6 p.m. and Santa Clara vs. Oregon at 8:30 p.m. with both games televised on CBS Sports Network. Saturday’s championship game, scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m., also will be telecast on CBS Sports Network. Flo Sports will carry Saturday’s third-place game that tips at 3 p.m.
Alabama is ranked No 15, up seven spots from last week, in the latest USA Today coaches poll. Alabama is No. 17 in the Associated Press top 25. The Crimson Tide started the season at No. 24 in both the coaches and the AP polls.
Alabama has won all of their games by at least 21 points. Ohio State will be its biggest challenge of the season so far.
Four players average in double figures for Alabama and another five players scoring at least five points per game. Grant Nelson and Jarin Stevenson have been welcome additions, averaging 13.8 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. Combine that with the team’s two leading scorers, senior guards Mark Sears (19.5 ppg) and Aaron Estrada (15.3 ppg), and the Crimson Tide are tough to limit because so many players can fill it up. Alabama is shooting 48.9% from three-point range as a team.
Playing in the Emerald Coast Classic will be a big early season test for Ohio State. Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. have made significant jumps from their freshman to sophomore seasons. The backcourt pair are the top two leading scorers for Ohio State. The two also share playmaking duties, averaging a combined 8.5 assists per game. The Buckeyes will need to have big games along with players like Zed Key (11.8 ppg) and Jamison Battle (11.3 ppg).
Santa Clara has been strong to start this season, including a win at Stanford. Carlos Marshall Jr. is averaging 18.5 points , shooting 65.1 percent from the field and 55.6% from three-point range.
Oregon is off to a perfect start at 4-0, which includes a win over Georgia. That Georgia game was N’Faly Dante’s only game of the season, as he is dealing with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately for Oregon, Dante is not the only injury the Ducks are dealing with. Nate Little has filled in for Dante at center and leads Oregon in scoring with a 13.0 average. He only played in the first half against Tennessee State and returned to the bench in the second half with a brace on his wrist. Outside of Dante and Bittle, Oregon has three guards averaging double figures. Brennan Rigsby is averaging 10.7 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the field and 62.5 percent from three-point range. Highly touted freshmen Jackson Shelstad and Mookie Cook have yet to play this season as they are also dealing with injuries.
SANTA CLARA REMAINS UNBEATEN: Santa Clara improved to 5-0 after an 81-39 over Mississippi Valley State on Monday. Carlos Marshall Jr. posted his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Santa Clara jumped out to a sizable lead in the opening half thanks to some sharp shooting from Johnny O’Neil (12 points on 5-of-5 shooting) and Marshall Jr. (12 points). The Broncos shot 51.6 percent, while limiting Mississippi Valley State to 31.3 percent, and held a 44-26 advantage at the intermission.
The Broncos kept their foot on the gas in the second half, limiting the Delta Devils to just 13 total points in the final 20 minutes while post 37 points of their own to run away with the victory. Santa Clara led by as much as 45 points in the second half.
SHORT HANDED DUCKS FIND A WAY: It took the Oregon men’s basketball team a half Monday to figure out how to execute without its two injured big man. Then, shots began to fall, and the Ducks began to roll.
Up a single point through 20 minutes, the UO men’s basketball team found its range from the three-point line and ran away from Florida A&M in the second half Monday evening. The Ducks posted a 67-54 victory in the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series matchup, despite the absence of injured big man N’Faly Dante (leg) and Nate Bittle (wrist).
“Without Dante and Nate, a little confidence goes,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “… So we lost a little bit of that confidence there, of getting it into them and playing from there. But I like the way the guys responded. We were able to finish the game.”
Jesse Zarzuela had 14 points to lead the Ducks (4-0), and Jadrian Tracey added 13 points. Jermaine Couisnard scored 11, Keeshawn Barthelemy added 10 and Kario Oquendo finished with nine, including two three-pointers early in the second half as Oregon finally got its offense going.
SEARS EXPANDING GAME FOR TIDE: Having big games for Alabama basketball is nothing new for Mark Sears. There’s a reason he was second in scoring for the Crimson Tide last season behind Brandon Miller.
Usually, his big scoring outputs come from hot shooting nights beyond the arc or a strong performance from the free throw line, but in Friday night’s victory over Mercer, Sears was nearly unstoppable in the paint.
“I wanna show that I’m not just a 3-point shooter,” Sears said after the game. “That’s something I wanted to expand on my game.”
The senior guard already had 17 points at the break and finished with 24 to lead the team in scoring. Fourteen of his points came in the paint with a 67 percent shooting night. He tied his season-high point total, but attempted and made for field goals than any of the other three games this season. He also had a season best 6 assists.
Sears was aggressive driving to the basket from the opening minutes, and it continued throughout the half. Nate Oats called his use-it or lose-it timeout with four seconds left before halftime. Sears took it all the way down the court and straight to the rack for a tough layup.
Oats said one of the things that stood out about Sears when they get him out of the portal from Ohio was his foul rate. He’s always been aggressive driving to the basket, the Alabama head coach likes his decision-making a lot more now.
“When he drives, he’s finishing at the rim, getting fouled or getting the correct spray-out now about 95 percent of the time,” Oats said. “He’s grown a lot in his decision making. He’s always been pretty tough and physical coming down hill.”
It wasn’t just Sears though. Finishing around the rim was a theme for the whole team as the Tide ended the night with 50 points in the paint.
One of the storylines somewhat lost in the shuffle early in the season for the Buckeyes is their lack of depth at guard. Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. are both expected to be – and so far have been – stars for the squad in 2023-24, but there’s a stark lack of ballhandlers off the bench for Ohio State.
That’s why Bonner’s development as a showrunner and shooter in relief is so vital.
“Until Taison (Chatman) gets fully healthy and we see how he’s coming along, you’re right, it’s critical,” Chris Holtmann said. “He’s important for us, he knows that. He’s got to keep developing, he’s got to keep getting better. He’s got to keep playing to his strengths and impacting the game as we know he can. So yeah, he’s a really important part of this group.”
Nov. 21: Alabama Prepares For First Road Test
Nov. 20: Alabama Continues Climb In Polls
Nov. 18: Sears Powers Victory
Nov. 18: Tide Ends Homestead On High Note
Nov. 17: Hot Shooting Ignites Win
Nov 17: Takeaways From Mercer Win
Nov. 21: Game Notes Vs. Alabama
Nov. 19: Buckeyes Rout Western Michigan
Nov. 19: Fast Start Propels Buckeyes
Nov. 19: Defense Keys Victory
Nov. 19: Buckeyes Cruise With Balanced Attack
Nov. 17: Buckeyes Close Out Homestand
Nov. 20: Short Handed Ducks Win
Nov. 20: Zarzuela, Tracey Lead Oregon
Nov. 19: Ducks Open Trip At Florida A&M
Nov. 18: Ducks Respond Without Top Players
Nov. 18: Dominant Second Half Carries Ducks
Nov. 18: Tracy Scores 15 Off Bench
Nov. 17: Four-Star Guard Commits To Oregon
Nov. 20: Marshall’s Double-Double Keys Win
Nov. 18: Santa Clara Holds Off Lions
Nov. 17: Broncos Host Southeastern Louisiana
Nov. 17: Mercer Falls Victim To Hot Shooting
Nov. 18: Defensive Effort Falls Short
Nov. 17: Lions Close Out Western Swing
Nov. 20: Bench Propels Victory Against Midway
Nov. 19: Tennessee State Prepares For Midway
Nov. 17: Tigers Fall At Oregon
Nov. 18: Western Michigan Visits Ohio State