The newly crowned SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide went on the road Saturday for basically a meaningless game. The Tide played much of the contest as if it didn't matter, but made a late push and even had a lead late before succumbing 67-61 to the Texas A&M Aggies. Bama fell to 26-5 and 16-2 in the league while TAM improved to 23-8 and 15-3.
The Tide continued the starting lineup of Mark Sears, Jaden Bradley, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller. Bama started off the game with consecutive turnovers without before they even attempted a shot. With 17:50 left Bradley hit a three point shot to get the Tide on the board, trailing 5-3.
Turnovers and missed threes continued to be the norm. Sears drew a foul and made two free throws with 15:55 left to cut the lead to 9-5. Miller scored five straight points on a put back and old-fashioned three point play to make it 11-10 with 14:36 left in the half. As the Tide continued to brick three point attempts, often times wide open, the Aggies slowly built their lead.
With 4:35 left in the half Bama was 4-23 from the field and 1-14 from behind the arc. TAMU built the lead to 32-17 with 2:27 left before Miller finally connected from deep, and Clowney had a follow up hoop right before the half to cut the margin to 32-22 at the break.
The Tide shot a woeful 6-29 for 21% in the half, including 2-19 for 10.5% from three point range, but did make 8-9 from the free throw line. Bama had 23 rebounds, 10 big turnovers, and only two assists. Miller had 10 points and Bradley with three was the next high man. The Aggies shot 11-31 for 36%. 1-8 for 12% from three, and made 9-9 free throws. The home team had 20 rebounds, five assists, and five turnovers.
Jahvon Quinerly replaced Bradley as a starter in the second half, as he has recently. The Tide was able to close within 36-30 with 14:35 left before the Aggies pushed back out to a 10 point lead. Quinerly then Clowney hit three pointers at the 11 minute mark to make the deficit 42-40. The team continued to miss more wide open threes as well as layups. Miller finally connected again at 9:24 to make the score 45-43 TAM. Quinerly tied it up and the game went back and forth for a few possessions. A&M would score and Miller would answer.
Finally with 4:35 left Quinerly nailed a three point shot to give the Tide their first lead of the day at 54-51. Miller was called for a charge on a play where he made the basket and could have been going to line to give the Bama some breathing room. Doug Shows thought otherwise and Aggie had the ball.
On the back of more outstanding free throw shooting A&M built a lead of 59-54. Sears finally made his only basket, a three pointer, to put it at 59-57. Miller then fouled out with two minutes left, with three of his five fouls called over about a three minute stretch. The Tide managed to start in striking distance. With 30 seconds left the Aggie missed a shot and the Tide rebounded with a chance to tie the game. Sears grabbed the rebound and for some reason decided not to dribble up the court and telegraphed a pass toward Quinerly that was picked off. Bama fouled and the home team continued to knock down free throws. The Tide missed and fouled on two more possessions and ended up on the short end of the 67-61 game.
Bama improved to 16-36 for 44% in the second with 5-17 for 29% from three. The Tide made their only two free throw attempts in the period. Overall the team finished 22-65 for 34%, 7-36 for 19% from behind the arc, and 9-11 from the free throw line. Bama grabbed 43 rebounds, had nine assists, six steals, four blocks, and a whopping 18 turnovers. Miller scored 19 on 7-23 shooting and had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Quinerly scored 12 and Clowney had 11 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. No one else scored over six points.
Texas A&M shot 7-22 in the second for 32%, 3-8 from three for 38%, and a sparkling 18-19 from the free throw line. For the game TAM finished 18-53 for 34%, 4-16 for 25% from three, and 27-28 for 96% on free throws. The Aggies had 34 rebounds, eight assists, seven steals, five blocks, and 14 turnovers. Starting guards Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford combined to go 20-20 on free shots, and combined for 49 points.
The Tide has seemingly forgotten how to shoot the three effectively over the last few games, but have found ways to have a chance to win all of them. Today missed open shots and opponent free throws did them in. The motivation of the team could have been waning considering their seeding for both the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament have been settled. In Nashville the Tide will definitely be the number one seed, and should have a number one locked down for the Big Dance. Depending what happens next week the overall number one for the NCAA is still a possibility. The shooting touch needs to come back ASAP, and the slow starts need to stop. Is replacing Bradley with Quinerly to start the games the answer?
Next up is the SEC Tournament in Nashville. The SEC Champion Tide will play Friday at noon CT against a to be determined opponent.