Everything Nate Oats said after first-round victory over Texas A&M-CC
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Top-seeded Alabama basketball just won its first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday afternoon, the Crimson Tide soundly defeated No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 96-75. Soon after the game, head coach Nate Oats spoke to the media to share his thoughts on the impressive victory.
Here’s everything Oats said:
COACH OATS: “March, survive and advance, I think that’s what we did. It was a good offensive game. Our defense has to get a lot better by Saturday. It was nice to come out and make some shots. I was happy to see Mark [Sears]. He’s been in the gym working a lot since the SEC weekend. It showed. I thought he came out, shot it really well. Four straight game Trey’s — JQ [Jahvon Quinerly] started. He started out with early leads in all of them. Kind of changed the narrative of that. We were up 9-zip this game, I think. If you combine our total starts it was 48-18 these last four games. It’s nicer to play with a lead from the beginning.
“We had 21 assists tonight. I think the ball has been moving. Shows how unselfish our guys are. Over the last four games, averaging 19 assists a game. Even when we haven’t been shooting it well, we have been getting assists and able to get them at the rim. 15 made 3’s toady day. Second most in Alabama history for an NCAA Tournament game. So we have been making shots at a pretty high level.
“It was nice to be able to put up 96 without Brandon [Miller] scoring a point. He’s got a groin injury that he’s been nursing since Sunday in the SEC Tournament. We were trying to play him limited minutes. We were able to keep him under 20. Hopefully, he can get a lot of rehab today and tomorrow and look a lot more like himself on Saturday. Proud of our guys. I thought we could have done a better job defensively at times in the game.
“I thought [Trevian] Tennyson — got to give those guys a lot of credit. They kept playing. Kept fighting. They had a great start to the second half. I believe Tennyson had 0 at half and ended up with 20 in the second half. Wasn’t great for our defense. We’ll be better against Maryland; we are going to have to be or we won’t get a win. Great to move to the second round. None of these tournament games are supposed to be easy.”
Q. Coach, obviously, the bench had a fantastic night, 49 points. What did you see from the bench production, essential with Nick Pringle‘s double-double?
COACH OATS: “Obviously, Nick played well. He wasn’t the only one. Nimari [Burnett] talks about how much Sears is in the gym. Nimari is in the gym all the time too. Nimari’s shot the ball really well in practice the last couple days, he studied a lot of video, I thought he got himself really ready. We got guys who keep themselves ready to go. If you look at the way Noah Gurley has been shooting the ball. Noah Gurley goes 2/2 from three. And Nimari goes 3/6 from3.
“We had guys come off the bench and really make shots, and help. Dom [Welch] made the one 3 which he hit, which is great. And then Pringle, Pringle’s athletic, he’s strong, he plays hard, he ends up with 15 rebounds. If he could make a free throw he would have been up around 25 and 15. He was good. He has a lot of energy about him. Like I said, if your bench doesn’t score the way it did, didn’t realize we had 49 off the bench. We had 96 points, and Brandon didn’t score. To get 96 points without Brandon scoring a point, you have to get some production from somewhere.”
Q. Just what does it say about this team that you can win by 21, do it the way you did without your best scorer scoring at all?
COACH OATS: “Shows we’re deep. We have a lot of options. A lot of talented players. You look at who is coming off our bench. Nimari Burnett is really talented. Rylan Griffen is super talented. Jaden Bradley is coming off the bench now. Two McDonald’s All-Americans with Jaden and Nimari. Nick Pringle, you see what he’s able to do. You go down the list. Dom Welch and Noah Gurley have been really good players at different schools where they came from before they got here.
“To have the amount of talent that you have on the bench and still have the chemistry, and guys are always ready, even if they don’t play heavy minutes. That speaks more to the character of the guys on the bench. It’s great in an NCAA Tournament game we were able to get these guys. Look at the minutes of the bench: 21 minutes, 21 minutes, 21 minutes, 18 minutes. 19 minutes from Gurley and then 14 minutes. Able to get that many minutes off the bench is nice, because we got to turn around and play in less than 48 hours. Nice we were able to get that many minutes off the bench.”
Q. You just mentioned the bench and the minutes that they played. With the starters with Noah limited to 9 minutes. And seemed like Charles is maybe dealing with the knee still. What’s the rest able to do for him with the Maryland game coming up?
COACH OATS: “I think it’s huge we’re able to rest those guys with Maryland having to play the full 40 with those guys.”
Q. For Mark [Sears] to be scoring in a big part of the offense, how key is that for you guys as you play in the postseason?
COACH OATS: “I think it’s really big. He’s been our second-leading scorer all year. Even when he was struggling we continued to play him heavy minutes, because I think he adds a lot to the team, even when he’s not making shots. He’s tough, he’s had games where he’s been one of the scrappiest, toughest, perimeter defenders out there. He adds that to the mix. So I thought he played really hard there after the timeout in the second half, he came out and I thought his effort was really good.
“So you know, we’re going to have him out there because we know he can score. Other teams know he’s capable of scoring at a high level. Teams can’t sag him. He’s going to give spacing on the floor. So to have him go ahead and make a lot of shots certainly helps because he can be on the floor. I was really happy to see those ones going in. Finished 3/4 from three. He’s capable — all of our players expect all their shots to go in. The way he shot it all summer and in the fall, he didn’t miss any open threes. I was happy to see that. Hopefully he gets his confidence going and we’ll see more of the same in the Second Round.”
Q. Coach, it started really in Nashville where he came off the bench and had 11 against Mississippi State. How big is it to have an older guy like Noah Gurley be ready and then — I’m a big body language guy when I watch the bench. He’s always invested. He keeps everybody up too. Just talk about his role.
COACH OATS: “He’s been great. He’s been one of our leaders. Two out of the four last regular season games, he didn’t play in. He was still the guy talking to everybody every timeout. Leading the locker room. So we started that SEC Tournament Mississippi State, they play a lot bigger. So we went with him and he played well. We continued to go with him. I think that’s four straight games — he’s at 19 and a half minutes. I would have gone more minutes.
“He gets stiff. He’s a little older, his body gets a little stiff. He would have been over 20 minutes four straight games if I hadn’t sit him there for a while. He got a little stiff there. Shooting 2/2 from three, 3 assists, no turnovers, 8 points, 4 rebounds. Pretty good night in 19 and a half minutes. But his leadership has been great all year, and it’s a big reason why we’re as tight, and chemistry is as good, and guys are pulling for each other as much as they are.”
Q. For the next round, you are familiar with the format now. It’s a quick turn. How much tape will you watch between now and the tip on Saturday. And who is on the scout and how much have they done pre-work on this?
COACH OATS: “We do things a little bit different. We don’t divvy up the scouts between assistants. Charlie has always got our defensive scout, and Pettway always has the offensive scout. And they have their small army of people that help them. So we got Maryland ready to roll. Charlie is probably looking at it right now. They will get me the edits right away. I will look at the edits they have already got done. And I will get to the games. I will look at the edits first. Get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I will watch as many games as I can. With this short turn around, you can’t watch a ton of them.
“That’s why I rely on Derek, our video coordinators on the defensive side of the ball. They have a couple GAs. A lot of those guys have already got a lot of that stuff broke down. Charlie does an unbelievable job on the defensive side. They will have that ready. I will sit down with that side of the ball and they will show me what they got. I will sit down with the offensive side of the ball. Adam Bauman helps Pettway. They got GAs and people helping them.
“And Maryland’s got some different matchup zone. They switch it. We’re going to have to figure out how to attack them too. We spend probably equal time on defense and offense because those separate people are really locked in. Bryan is working with Pino on personnel, more on the defensive side. So they will kind of give me a quick rundown of their personnel. And I’ll get as quick of an idea of what they have as I can. And we’re going to show video of the team tonight.
“They will get out of here, rest, get with Clarke, or trainer, rehab, at dinner tonight we’ll show them the first edits. Tomorrow morning we’ll show them more. We’ll have a short practice because you know we just played today and we play tomorrow. And show more video tomorrow. And we’ll wake up Saturday morning, show them a quick game-day edit, and be ready to roll.”