Alabama had it. And then they didn’t.
Alabama basketball lost a crucial home game to Texas A&M 74-68 on Wednesday night inside Coleman Coliseum.
Texas A&M forced Alabama to play at its strengths. The Aggies hold its opponents to 64 points per game and held the Crimson Tide to just 68. Texas A&M played the shot clock. Played physical defense. And Alabama struggled to find a solid answer.
“This was a disappointing loss, one we really needed if we’re going to make a run at the NCAA tournament,” head coach Nate Oats said in a press release. “You’ve got to give Texas A&M a lot of credit, they’re playing hard.”
The opportunities were there for Alabama (14-12, 6-7 SEC). Two, in fact. Actually, in reality, like three. Maybe four. Two potential game-tying three-point shots in the final minute, but both Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaden Shackleford missed. Alex Reece had an opportunity but missed it. Then, on a three-point shot, Shackleford was fouled and missed all three free throws.
But it was more than that. It was a tale of two halves.
To end the first half, the Crimson Tide held the Aggies to zero field goals in the last 6:16. Texas A&M had 14 turnovers, resulting in 14 Alabama points. The Crimson Tide made eight three-pointers and four two-pointers.
Alabama was playing its game, Texas A&M was just hanging around.
But then things changed.
To close out the game, Texas A&M finished on a 12-0 run, including a Quenton Jackson three-ball with 57 seconds remaining to take the lead 68-62.
Each year it’s the same reality. Alabama can’t finish in February. In each of the past four seasons, Alabama hasn’t earned more than two wins to finish its last five games. The Crimson Tide will have to finish 4-1 or 5-0 to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. And, that’s a lot to ask.
The fight in this team is undeniable, but you can’t lose to Texas A&M and expect to make the NCAA tournament. A Quadrant three loss really hurts the Crimson Tide. Remember, Alabama was an 11.5 point favorite. They lost by six.
With five games remaining on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, two stick out. Mississippi State and South Carolina. Both of whom sit on the bubble, both of which Alabama can’t afford to lose.
“We have got to get this figured out. Some of this is on the coaching staff,” Oats said about Alabama’s struggles late in the season. “We didn’t do a great job of attacking the pressure. That’s on me, and we’ve got to get them more prepared to play.”
Alabama starts a two-game road trip in the state of Mississippi, starting with Ole Miss on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT.