Fans filled most of the seats in Raider Arena for the tip-off of the Emerald Coast Classic in Crimson and Red to watch the first round of the Niceville tournament.
Based on the cheering from the fans, plenty of people drove from Ohio or already lived here in the area and came to support the Buckeyes, like Niceville Councilman Sal Nodjomian.
As you might’ve guessed – the Crimson Tide were well-represented in the arena, too. Northwest Florida State College President Dr. Devin Stephenson, dressed in Crimson to pull for the Tide from his seats at the game.
Orange Illinois and Auburn sweaters were in attendance, too – as was a single Michigan block M starter jacket.
Haters gonna hate.
Northwest Florida State College’s Head Basketball Coach stalked the sidelines with his coaching staff – the team watched the four squads at their practices this week – and hope to take what they’ve learned to their next game on Tuesday against the Daytona State Falcons to preserve their undefeated 10-0 start to the season.
“There’s a lot of Alabama fans down here, obviously Ohio State is going to travel well,” Coach DeMeo noted, “It’s going to be a fun night of basketball.”
Like a heavyweight boxer, the Crimson Tide landed a couple of good body blows early. The team looked good from inside the paint – and picked apart Ohio State’s defense on the perimeter. Bama Super Senior Aaron Estrada made several three-pointers to put Bama’s nose in front.
Ohio State, reeled from the blows in the opening five minutes of the Half. The 4-1 Buckeyes managed to stay in the game despite several unforced errors from the Buckeyes starting five. Three-point buckets from the unranked Buckeyes gave them just enough steam to keep it a game.
But something changed about halfway through the first period.
Ohio State’s rotation began to clean up their act and passed cleanly and crisply. Motion on and off the ball allowed for the Buckeyes forwards to get balls into the paint. The last two minutes of the Half saw the Buckeyes pull ahead of Tide and end the Half with a five-point lead, 38-33. The Buckeyes would separate themselves from the Tide in the rebounding category – finishing the Half with seventeen rebounds to Alabama’s nine.
The Buckeyes would pull away from the Tide and plateau at a ten-point lead (give or take a couple of baskets here and there) in the Second Half, thanks to organized offensive play and defensive resiliency.
The Tide would start the Half hot on a Mark Sears three-pointer from the starboard side of the court. The Bama fans in the crowd would erupt a cacophony the arena hadn’t yet experienced in the game – and get Sears and Co. within three points of Ohio State.
That three-point gap would be the high water mark for the Tide through the rest of the game. OSU would immediately convert on a two-point play to respond back and methodically build their lead, despite three-point snipes from the Tide, through paint play, mid-range jumpers and a 25/27 night from the free throw line. Bruce Thornton would sink several threes for the Buckeyes – but his defensive efforts as a guard gave Ohio State breakaway chances to keep Alabama from gaining a foothold in the game after the second-half whistle. Final Score 92-81, Buckeyes.
After the game – Ohio State Head Coach Chris Hoffmann thanked the team’s fans for traveling down to Niceville for the game. He said he expected the game to be a home game for the Bama fans – but based on the crowd noise, he thought they had a slight advantage on the night.
The Buckeyes will face the winners of the Oregon/Santa Clara Matchup – which takes place on Saturday, November 25 at 6 pm.