The ten game winning streak of the Crimson Tide was snapped on Saturday with a 66-61 loss to the 24th ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the BIG 12-SEC Challenge. Alabama fell to 14-4 overall while OU improved to 11-4. Neither team was at full strength, with two Sooner starters out and Jordan Bruner still missing for the Tide. In addition, Herbert Jones, Alex Reese, James Rojas, and Jahvon Quinerly all played but none were at 100%.
The game could not have started out any worse for the Tide, falling being 11-2 early and turning the ball over seemingly on every possession. Bama finally starting closing the gap with around 12 minutes left in the half but still at eight turnovers, mostly unforced, at that point. Joshua Primo, Keon Ellis, and Reese all hit three pointers to draw to a tie and John Petty hit two in a row to forge a 23-20 Alabama lead with just over three minutes remaining in the period. Oklahoma outscored the Tide 6-0 in the last two minutes of the half and took a 32-29 lead into the locker room.
Alabama shot only 11-26 in the first half including 5-12 from three point range and made 2-4 free throws. Oklahoma wasn't much different with 13-33 from the field, 5-11 from deep, and 1-2 from the charity stripe.
The second half began better than the first for Alabama as the teams traded leads until around the 12 minute mark. Things were not going the Tide’s way, highlighted by Jones getting elbowed in the face causing a bloody nose on a Sooner drive to the basket. Oddly enough, Jones was called for the foul and OU had a three point play opportunity. With just over 10 minutes left, Oklahoma took a 10 point lead when Reese came alive with back to back long three point baskets, putting the score at 55-51 with 7:38 remaining. Jaden Shackelford made a three and a couple of free throws to keep the Crimson Tide in the game. Keon Ellis hit what was thought to be a three that would have tied the game at 59, but his toe was on the line. Ellis came back and hit 2-2 free throws and Bama lead 60-59 with 3:40 left and it looked as if the Tide could pull this one out.
Reese missed two open threes and a foul was called on Bama on a rebound try. OU missed the free try and Shackelford had a breakaway that would have given the Tide a 62-61 lead. Another rebound try, another foul and two free throws later the Tide was down 63-61. With 1:23 left Bama still had a chance, but Shackelford missed at the rim again and a three pointer off the rebound missed also. The Tide continued to foul to stop the clock, but could not answer with a basket and fell 66-61 in a tough, hard fought, game. In the last 4:21 of the game, Alabama was 0-8 from the field and made only one of their last 10 shots.
The Tide shot worse in the second half with 10-28, 5-16 from three, and 7-10 from the line. Overall the mark was 21-54 for 38%, 10-28 for 36% from three, and 9-14 for 63% from the free throw line. Alabama finished with 34 rebounds, twelve assists, 16 turnovers, three blocks, and seven steals. OU was 12-29, 3-10, and 8-14 in the second, finishing 25-62 for 40%, 8-21 for 38% and 8-14 for 57%. The Sooners cleaned up on the boards with 42 rebounds, 13 on the offensive glass, had nine assists, 14 turnovers, one block, and nine steals.
Individually, Reese finished with 15 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes. Shackelford had 14 points, but missed six layups. Petty had a quiet nine points and five rebounds. Jones playing when he probably should not have been gutted out 36 minutes and scored seven points, with six rebounds and five assists. Ellis came off the bench for 20 minutes of play and scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds. Coach Nate Oats said that “when Ellis is in the game our offensive and defensive numbers are better than when he isn't in the game.”
This looked like a tired, beat up team. Oklahoma scored 10 second chance points, the Tide had zero. In a trend going back three games, the offense has not been sharp. During the 10 game winning streak, Alabama was shooting 46% from the field, 41% from three and 72% from the free throw line. In today’s loss, the numbers were 39% from the field, 36% from three, and 64% from the free throw line. With dead legs, injuries, and sickness enveloping the team, a loss was sure to soon follow. Today was that day.
Oats said that they need to learn from this loss and “play better the next game.” He went on to say that the leaders of the team, Jones, Bruner, and Petty, were all saying the right things in the locker room to rally the team. Bruner has definitely been missed the last several games since his injury. The grad transfer seemed to be turning the corner and gives the team the tough inside presence that is missing.
The winning streak was sure fun while it lasted. Now it’s time for the team to start another. With a commanding three game advantage in the SEC it would be ideal to keep on winning and run away with the regular season crown.
Next up is a home game with LSU on Wednesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 or ESPNU, followed by road games to Missouri and USCe.
The Tide still has a lot to play for: SEC Championship, seeding in the NCAA and more. Hopefully they can get rested and healthy for the stretch run.
Roll Tide Roll