Alabama is dealing with a tragedy during its stay in paradise.
The 10th-ranked Crimson Tide could again be without starting center Jermareo Davidson on Sunday when they play Iowa in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam tournament.
Alabama (2-0) began the tournament Friday without Davidson in a 71-62 victory over Middle Tennessee State. Davidson did not travel with the team to attend the funeral of his girlfriend, who died in a car accident last weekend.
The senior forward was a passenger in the accident, but was not hurt.
“We missed him a lot, there’s no question,” coach Mark Gottfried said.
Davidson left Saturday to join the team in the Virgin Islands, but it’s not clear whether he will see action in the tournament.
Without their top post player, the Crimson Tide managed just a 36-32 rebounding edge. Freshman Yamene Coleman started in Davidson’s place, finishing with five points and five rebounds.
“I do think the young guys came in and played hard,” point guard Ronald Steele said. “I think everybody played hard. We just didn’t execute well.
“But we’ll have to play a lot better because we’re playing a good Iowa team. They’ve got a lot of good players, so it’s going to be important for us to play our best basketball.”
The Hawkeyes (2-0) have fared well in recent years in pre-Thanksgiving tournaments against ranked teams. They were unranked when they upset then-No. 12 Louisville and then-No. 15 Texas two years ago en route to the championship game of the Maui Invitational, and beat then-No. 7 Kentucky last year in the semifinals of the Guardians Classic.
Iowa advanced with a 78-65 victory over Toledo on Friday. Kurt Looby, a native of Antigua whose mother was in attendance, had 13 points and nine rebounds in his second game with the Hawkeyes.
“I was looking around before the game and she wasn’t there yet,” Looby said. “I was a little out of position in getting those fouls in the first half. In the second half, after I saw my mother, I relaxed and played my game— rebounding and playing defense in the middle of the lane.”
Freshman Tyler Smith scored 28 points off the bench to lead Iowa, which held a 51-30 rebounding edge.
“Iowa is a very good team,” Gottfried said. “They’ve got some new players from a year ago, but they’ve done a nice job on integrating the new players. They’re big, physical, and they really rebound well. So we’ve got some challenges there.”
Steele, a preseason All-American, scored 20 points and had four assists in Alabama’s victory. He made all seven foul shots, but the rest of the team missed nine of 18 attempts.
The loss of Davidson forced Gottfried to use only eight players. Alabama was further hampered when freshman reserve Demetrius Jemison fouled out with 4:24 left with eight points in 20 minutes.
Alabama and Iowa have never met.
The winner will face Villanova or Xavier in Monday’s championship game.