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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 third straight after second-half collapse 

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama forward Sam Walters plays defense against Arizona at Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ on Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023.

On Wednesday night, Alabama fell to the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats at the Hall of Fame Series in Phoenix, Arizona, with a final score of 87-74.  

The Crimson Tide went winless in its tough stretch against top 10 opponents, dropping games against then-No. 4 Purdue and No. 8 Creighton before Wednesday night’s contest.  

This was an anticipated matchup for several reasons. Obviously, this was a game between two highly talented teams, but there were also a couple of connections between this Arizona team and last year’s Alabama team.  

Most notably, Arizona guard Jaden Bradley was donning a crimson and white jersey this time last season. He entered the transfer portal in early April, eventually deciding to take his talent to Arizona.  

In addition to this, the Crimson Tide once again faced off against forward Keshad Johnson. Alabama fans may remember Johnson as part of the San Diego State team that knocked the Crimson Tide out of the NCAA tournament last season in the Sweet 16.  

Despite the hype heading into this game, both Alabama and Arizona struggled offensively in the first half. It was the defensive play of both teams that kept this one close until halftime.  

Alabama shot just 3-22 from long range in the first half. The Crimson Tide shot 22 3-pointers total in its previous contest against Creighton. Alabama finished the game shooting 8-40 from 3. 

It was a particularly rough half for forward Grant Nelson. The North Dakota State transfer went just 1-9 from the field in the half, going 0-7 from beyond the arc.  

Picking up some of this slack for Alabama was forward Sam Walters. The freshman had his best offensive half of the season, putting up 9 points on 3-6 shooting and tallying 6 points at the free-throw line for 15 total points. 

“If he’s open, everyone on the team thinks the ball is going in,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said of Walters postgame.  

Guard Mark Sears and Arizona guard Caleb Love were expected to be going at each other’s throats all night, but both guards were uncharacteristically quiet in the first half. 

Sears finished the half with just 7 points on 1-4 shooting from the field, with 5 of his points coming from the free-throw line. Love went 0-3 from the field in the half, scoring his only 2 points from the free-throw line.  

Despite a lackluster half offensively, Alabama looked capable of coming back to Tuscaloosa with a win, trailing by just 1 point at halftime.  

Things were only looking up to start the second half, as the Crimson Tide went on a 10-0 tear in the first four minutes, fueled by two 3-pointers from Nelson, who seemed to finally be heating up and settling in.  

Nelson finished with 17 points, scoring 13 in the second half.  

Unfortunately for Alabama, this incredible stretch was immediately followed by arguably the team’s worst series of possessions all season, both offensively and defensively.  

Toward the middle of the half, the Crimson Tide seemed to be completely out of rhythm. Offensive possessions were sloppy, leading to multiple consecutive turnovers. On the defensive end, repeated Alabama fouls lead to a plethora of points at the free-throw line for the Wildcats.  

In the second half, the Wildcats took 27 shots from the charity stripe, compared with just 8 from the Crimson Tide.  

Forwards Nick Pringle and Mohamed Wague both fouled out for the third consecutive game. 

“We lost our momentum and never really gained it back,” Oats said. “We’ve got to be more mentally tough when stuff is not going our way.”  

On top of the poor play from the Crimson Tide, Love finally began to find his rhythm late in the contest, scoring 11 of his 13 points to push the dagger deeper into Alabama’s heart.  

All five of Arizona’s starters ended the game with points in double figures. Center Oumar Ballo finished with a double-double consisting of 16 points and 12 rebounds.  

“We were right with these guys,” Oats said. “We’ve got to do a better job playing for 40. We’ve got some stuff we can clean up and I think we can play with just about anybody in the country.” 

Next, Alabama will have a chance to improve with a game against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.  

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