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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama men’s basketball drops second consecutive game against top 10 opponent 

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama forward Nick Pringle (23) dunks the ball against Creighton at CHI Health Center in Omaha, NE on Saturday, Dec 16, 2023.

So close, yet so far away.  

In its second straight game against a top 10 opponent, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell Saturday to the No. 8 Creighton Bluejays with a final score of 85-82. 

Similar to its previous contest against No. 3 Purdue, Alabama came up just short of a victory, showing that it can hang with the best in the nation, but is not yet capable of winning big-time games. 

“In our four losses, we’ve shown that we’re right there with all the best teams in the country, but we don’t do enough winning stuff to actually win the game,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said postgame. “Our offense is efficient enough, but our defense stinks right now. We don’t make enough winning plays.”  

Entering the contest, a lot of the conversation around this matchup was the incredible 3-point shooting capabilities of the two teams. Many thought this game would be a shootout, but it was anything but. 

In the first half, Alabama shot 1-11 from long range, compared with the 13-24 it put up in the first half against Purdue. Creighton attempted just eight 3s, converting on three of the attempts.  

The Crimson Tide put a heavy emphasis on attacking the paint in the game. At the end of the first half, 36 of its 44 points came from inside the paint, with Creighton having no answer for the onslaught of alley-oop slams from Alabama. 

Forward Nick Pringle was the main beneficiary of these lobs, with 8 of his 12 first-half points coming at the rim. He finished with 15 after fouling out late in the second half.  

Some of the Crimson Tide’s success in the paint during the first half can be attributed to the injury to Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who went down about halfway through the first half after appearing to roll his ankle on the shoe of Alabama guard Aaron Estrada. Kalkbrenner did not return for the rest of the half. 

Alabama was playing catch-up for most of the first half but finally took a lead with about three minutes remaining in the half. The game was knotted up at 44 at the break.  

Kalkbrenner returned to start the second half and made an immediate impact. He scored 6 points in the first five minutes of the half and established a defensive presence that made things difficult for the Crimson Tide at times. 

He finished the game with 19 points on 9-11 shooting with eight rebounds and three blocks.  

Three-pointers were a rare sight in this game from start to finish for both squads. The two teams made a combined 10 3s during the contest. Alabama hit 19 3s in its previous game against Purdue.  

Even with Kalkbrenner’s return, Alabama controlled the paint in the second half, finishing with a season-high 62 points in the paint and outrebounding the Bluejays 37-32 with a 17-7 advantage on the offensive glass.  

This Alabama team has struggled with fouls all season, and those struggles were on full display against the Bluejays. The Crimson Tide tallied 25 total fouls in the game, compared with Creighton’s 16. Forwards Mohamed Wague and Pringle both fouled out with significant time remaining in a very close game. 

“Our bigs have to figure out how to guard without fouling,” Oats said. “We’ve got to do a better job not putting them in a position where they need to foul.” 

Despite a rough shooting night from downtown, Mark Sears led the Crimson Tide in scoring with 19 points. Similar to the Purdue game, he helped keep the game close until the very end.  

After a few back-and-forth scoring possessions from the two teams to end the half, Alabama was down 3 points with 12 seconds remaining. Sears attacked the rim and scored to cut the Creighton lead to just 1. 

After two free throws from Creighton’s Steven Ashworth, the Crimson Tide had the ball down three with about three seconds left in regulation.  

Sears drove down the court with a full head of steam and put up a prayer from half-court that bounced off the backboard and just barely rimmed out as time expired. 

“It’s a tough loss,” Oats said. “We’re not doing enough to win against good teams right now, and Creighton is a really good team.” 

Next, Alabama will look to enter another hostile environment — Phoenix, Arizona — to upset the top-ranked and unbeaten Arizona Wildcats on Wednesday. The game will be broadcast at 10 p.m. CT on ESPN. 

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