Alabama didn’t want to change anything following its loss to LSU Wednesday night; they wanted to play tough. They wanted to shoot the three-pointer. They wanted to find success in the transition game.
But that wouldn’t come easy, facing not only the second-best offense in the SEC but one of the best teams defending the three-point shot. And to make matters worse, Alabama had to do it without junior forward Herbert Jones, who is out indefinitely with a fractured left wrist.
Alabama dropped its second straight game for the first time since November, losing 82-78 to the Razorbacks Saturday night.
“Tough loss. I mean, we fought for a while,” head coach Nate Oats said in a press release. “We just couldn’t get it together defensively in the second half. I thought our defense kind of disappeared in the second half.”
The Crimson Tide started fast, jumping out to a 12-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. They had the Razorbacks right where they wanted them. Flustered. Forcing shots. Searching for answers. In a way, it looked like Alabama knew what they had to do.
But that was about it. Alabama returned to looking like past years teams, turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, which turned into 17 turnovers for 27 points.
“I thought our turnovers in the middle of the first half really killed our flow and it brought them back in it,” Oats said.
Despite having a three-point advantage at halftime, Arkansas continued to answer every Alabama rally. The Razorbacks went on a 15-2 run to lead 64-57. The Crimson Tide responded back with a 12-2 run, but in the final minutes of the game, the Razorbacks finished with an 11-1 run. In the last 4:11, Alabama made one basket. A three-point shot at the end of regulation.
But, like all season, Alabama plays solid for spurts and suffers long scoring droughts.
“You can kind of break that game up into four-minute media timeout battles, and the only one we were any good on defense was the under eight and the under four,” Oats said.
The Crimson Tide’s top two players sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. and junior guard John Petty Jr. combined for 20 points, finishing 7-of-21 from the field. Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford finished with 28 points and seven rebounds.
Had the NCAA tournament started tomorrow, Arkansas would be a projected No. 8 seed. A win over the Razorbacks would have likely punched the Crimson Tide into the field. However, because Alabama lost, they likely sit on the outside looking in.
But realistically, the expectation for this season should have never been the NCAA tournament. It’s Oats’ first year and the team is relatively young. Quite possibly having the best player, Jahvon Quinerly, sitting on the bench due to NCAA transfer rules. There’s a lack of urgency. No toughness. Too many turnovers and mishaps. Nobody is doing the dirty work.
There’s still time to fix things, though. In a tough four-game stretch, Alabama went 2-2, having won nine of the last 12. They still play Auburn and LSU. Along with Vanderbilt and Missouri, who they hold wins against.
In a difficult position, Alabama (12-9, 4-4 SEC) will face Tennessee on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide has won four of its past five meetings against the Volunteers at home.