The new-look Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team took no prisoners on Monday night, destroying the visiting Morehead State Eagles 105-73 in Coleman Coliseum.
With only three returning players from last season, Coach Nate Oats had to rebuild his team, as well as his coaching staff after all three assistants got head coaching jobs in the offseason. In another note, last year’s SEC Player of the Year, Wooden Finalist, and First-Team All American, Brandon Miller was in attendance, sitting court side with Athletic Director Greg Byrne.
The Crimson Tide were playing like an experienced, cohesive team in midseason form. Defensive hustle, hot shooting from all over the court, great performances by veterans and new players highlighted a night where Tide served notice that they’re not going anywhere — it is now officially a reload program, not one that faces season-derailing rebuilds.
Oats sent out his three returners, Mark Sears, Rylan Griffen, and Nick Pringle, alongside Grant Nelson and Aaron Estrada, as the starting five. Nelson, from North Dakota State, and Estrada, from Hofstra, were two of the most coveted players in the transfer portal.
The Tide got off to a hot start, and didn’t slow down throughout the game. Estrada hit a three for the first basket of the season and was followed by a layup and three-pointer from Sears. Nelson added a thunderdunk and Bama led 12-3 with after just three minutes. Oats substituted liberally, with 11 players playing at least five minutes in the first stanza.
Nelson heated up and knocked down back-to-back three-point shots, followed by another from Estrada, for a 37-13 lead with 10:30 remaining in the first period. Griffen and Devin Cosby joined the three-point party, and the Tide carried a 55-35 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the first half the Tide shot 17-29 for 58%, 8-15 from deep for 54%, and made 13-13(!!) from the free throw line. Bama had 13 rebounds with eight assists, eight steals, three blocks, and seven turnovers in the period. Estrada tallied 14 points, Sears 12, and Nelson 11 at the break.
Morehead was actually knocking down the looks the Eagles did get. They shot 14-32 for 44% in the half, but a sad 3-13 (23%) from deep and 4-6 for 67% from the charity stripe. The Eagles grabbed 17 rebounds, had two assists, three steals, two blocks, and 10 turnovers. Riley Minix and Kalil Thomas led the way with eight points each.
The same five started began the second half for the Tide. Highly touted freshman Jarin Stevenson entered early in the half and quickly made his presence felt. Stevenson reclassified from 2025 to enroll early and came to Tuscaloosa from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a place known a little bit for basketball. Stevenson is a 6’11’ clone of Noah Clowney, even wearing the 15 jersey that Clowney wore. The young freshman quickly hit two three-point shots and the Tide led 63-43 with 16:50 left in the game.
There was 12 minutes left in the game before Bama finally missed a free throw, and at that point were 20-21 in the game. Nelson took over for about a three-minute period, with a highlight reel flying dunk followed by a finger roll. Griffen hit a couple of free throws with just under four minutes left to put the Tide over the century mark. Walk-on Kai Spears and freshman Sam Walters added the last four points and Bama claimed the 105-73 victory.
In the second half, the Tide shot 15-28 for 54%, 2-8 for 25% from three, and 18-25 for 72% from the charity stripe.
Overall, Bama shot 32-57 for 56% including 10-23 for 44% from deep, 31-38 from the free throw line for 82%, grabbed 40 rebounds, had 16 assists, three blocks. 13 steals, and committed 13 turnovers.
Morehead State shot 13-30 in the second for 43%, including 4-10 from three, and made 8-13 from the line.
Overall the Eagles shot 27-62 for 44%, 7-23 for 30% from deep, and 12-19 for 63% from the free throw line. Morehead grabbed 29 rebounds, had seven assists, six steals, three blocks, and 15 turnovers.
Individually, Nelson led the way for the Tide with 24 points on 7-12 shooting (2-4 from three), and 8-8 on free throws. Nelson also was the leading rebounder with seven, after not grabbing a board in the first half. For good measure the big man from the north country added an assist, a steal, and two blocks.
Estrada added 16 points on 7-10 (2-3) shooting and handed out three assists and snatched two steals. Sears scored 13 and led the team with five assists. Stevenson sparkled in his debut with 12 points and five rebounds. Griffen with nine points and Walters with seven points rounded out the leading scorers.
Eleven players played double digit minutes with Nelson leading the was with 25 minutes. Nelson was voted player of the game and also won the hard hat award. Freshman Kris Parker was held out of the game with a slight injury.
After the game Oats was upbeat about the team’s performance on offense, but said they have work to do on defense. Oats was pleased with the percentage on three-point shots, but said that “we need to get more up from deep”. When asked about the rotation as the season progresses, Oats said “it will take a long time to set the rotation, but if the guys aren't playing defense, they won't be playing against better competition.”
This is going to be another fun-to-watch Alabama basketball team. Nelson and Estrada are as-advertised. Nelson in particular is a unicorn. At 6’11”, he did some of everything, including bringing the ball up the court on occasion; his handle at his size is nothing short of amazing. Estrada is tough and gritty and can get a bucket at any time. Sears is so solid and the perfect lead guard to run Oats system. Stevenson is going to be a super star.
The length and depth of this team are perfect for what Oats wants to do, basically position less basketball. With five players at 6’10” or taller the Tide can come at you with waves of size. There are several players that can be the star on any given night. With the schedule that Oats has put together there will be some losses along the way, but the squad looks to be built for a deep post season run.
The Tide faithful have another fun team to follow!