It had to happen eventually.
For the first time since Dec. 17, Alabama basketball suffered a loss. It’s third of the season came in unexpected blowout fashion, with Oklahoma crushing the No. 2 Crimson Tide by a final score of 93-69 in the Lloyd Noble Center.
There were lots that went wrong for Alabama, so here are my thoughts:
Alabama football head coach Nick Saban talks about “rat poison,” all the time in regards to the football program, but it seems to have made its way to the hardwood as well.
For two games in a row now, Alabama has settled for being the hunted instead of the hunter as games begin, with a lack of intensity and urgency on both sides of the ball. This likely is a direct result of buying into their own hype from the national media, listening to the people that said they should be ranked No. 1, and that they’re a foregone conclusion to make it to Houston for the Final Four.
The reality is, none of that is guaranteed, and they learned that on Saturday. Both head coach Nate Oats and freshman guard Rylan Griffen acknowledged the complacency after the game as an issue that needed to be corrected.
If Mississippi State was a warning, Oklahoma is a blaring alarm. Alabama is still one of the most talented teams in the country without a doubt, but it isn’t invincible. A well-prepared team who hits shots is more than capable of beating, or in this case, dominating, Alabama if the Crimson Tide doesn’t come ready to play.
The question remains, how will Alabama respond?
Last time Alabama lost a game it rattled off nine straight victories. Every time this team has faced a difficult challenge this season, it has answered the call. This is just the next hurdle that will test this team’s toughness.
82. 100. 93.
Those are the three scores from teams that have beaten Alabama this season. UConn, Gonzaga and Oklahoma all executed at extremely high levels on the offensive end, which left Alabama’s offense struggling to keep up.
Against Oklahoma specifically, the first half was easily the worst defensive half Alabama had played all season. Oklahoma was getting wide open threes from poor defensive rotations, players were in bad positions to defend cutters, and overall there was a complete lack of intensity.
Additionally, Oklahoma made some difficult shots, which Alabama players visibly let get to their heads and it even more effected the effort and intensity on defense.
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Alabama has shown it has the capabilities to be not just a good, but an elite defensive team in college basketball. Even after the loss, the Crimson Tide ranks sixth nationally in defensive efficiency per KenPom, but national rankings only get you so far if you don’t come prepared to execute.
Alabama has now shot under 30 percent from 3-point range in four straight games. The last game the Crimson Tide eclipsed the 30-percent mark was on Jan. 14 against LSU.
I touched on this a bit last week, but a few players who have been consistent shooters for Alabama are going through major slumps from beyond the arc at the same time.
Noah Clowney has missed his last 20 3-point attempts. His last make came against Arkansas on Jan. 11. Mark Sears has made just five of his last 28 attempts from downtown after beginning the year shooting roughly 42 percent.
Even Brandon Miller has been in a mini slump the past two games, making just two of his eight shots from deep.
Alabama doesn’t live and die by the 3-point shot, but its is a major factor in its success. The team has shooters all over the floor, Alabama just needs them to shoot their way out of their slumps to help the Crimson Tide get back into a consistent offensive rhythm.
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