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

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

No 13. Alabama basketball falls to No. 17 Kentucky as defensive struggles continue

Courtesy of Alabama Athletics
Alabama Guard Rylan Griffen (#3) looks to pass the ball at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, Feb 24, 2024.

All season long, Alabama head coach Nate Oats has preached the importance of defense as his team has struggled to play with the same intensity on both sides of the ball. 

These lingering defensive struggles were ultimately the undoing for Alabama men’s basketball in its 117-95 loss to the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday inside Rupp Arena.  

Kentucky shot over 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, with guards Antonio Reeves and Justin Edwards combining for 52 points.  

The Wildcats’ 117 points are the third-most points allowed by the Crimson Tide in program history. 

“We’ve had question marks about our defense all year,” Oats said postgame. “Those question marks are completely erased. Everybody knows that we don’t really guard at this point.”  

Alabama has put itself in a similar position all season, using its elite offense as a crutch for poor defensive play and relying on outscoring every opponent.  

Facing another elite offense such as Kentucky, however, Alabama needed near perfection on the offensive side of the ball, which proved to be too tall of a task for the Crimson Tide.  

Alabama shot just 6-17 from beyond the arc, which marks the fewest 3-pointers the Crimson Tide has made since making just four against Creighton back in December. The Wildcats went 13-24 from long range.  

One glaring reason for Alabama’s lack of presence at the 3-point line is the absence of guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr., who continues to be day-to-day with a head injury suffered in practice before the Crimson Tide’s matchup with Florida.  

Wrightsell ranks second on the team in both 3-pointers made, 57, and 3-point percentage, 44%.  

“It would have helped to have Latrell Wrightsell,” Oats said. “He is shooting it better than the rest of our guys and taking care of the ball better than the rest of them. It would’ve helped to have him, but it certainly wasn’t going to make the difference today. We needed everybody to play a lot better.”  

On top of Alabama’s lackluster defense, Kentucky would take advantage of 16 Crimson Tide turnovers for 29 second-chance points.  

Guard Rylan Griffen led the way offensively for Alabama, scoring a season-high 21 points, followed by guard Mark Sears, who scored his usual 20. The Crimson Tide finished with six total players in double figures.  

“He’s definitely getting better,” Oats said of Griffen. “We’re relying on him more. He’s a smart kid.” 

With Saturday’s loss, Alabama is now tied with Tennessee for the top spot in the SEC. The two teams will face off in Tuscaloosa next Saturday in a highly anticipated rematch, with ESPN’s “College GameDay” making its first trip to Coleman Coliseum.  

Before the Crimson Tide has another swing at the Volunteers, however, it will travel to Oxford on Wednesday to take on the Ole Miss Rebels. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. CT.  

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