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

Alabama men’s basketball has conference title hopes drowned in loss to Florida

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama guard Mark Sears (#1) passes the ball off against Florida during the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Blue and orange. 

These two colors have been a thorn in the side of the Crimson Tide for generations. Going into the SEC tournament, many expected Alabama men’s basketball to go through some combination of the two colors, whether it was the blue of the Kentucky Wildcats, the orange of the Tennessee Volunteers, or perhaps the all-too-familiar color combo of the Auburn Tigers.  

However, it was the blue and orange of the Florida Gators that signaled Alabama’s 102-88 defeat on Friday night inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.  

The Crimson Tide came flying out of the gates, scoring inside at will and completely shutting the Gators down on defense, leading to an 11-3 run as Bridgestone Arena filled with the cheers of those who made the roughly 250-mile journey from Tuscaloosa to Nashville.  

This rowdiness would soon grow silent as the Gators unleashed a 21-2 run on Alabama to end the half, and the Crimson Tide completely lost its footing on both sides of the ball.  

“Our intensity was high coming out,” guard Aaron Estrada said postgame. “I don’t really know what happened. I just feel like it died down as we played throughout the game.” 

Florida guards Zyon Pullin and Walter Clayton Jr. combined for 23 of the Gators’ 48 first-half points. The two led the Gators in scoring with 19 and 23 points, respectively.  

Alabama trailed 48-33 heading into the locker room.  

It was far from over for the Crimson Tide, though, as this team has shown that it is capable of overcoming significant deficits in the second half, most recently with its overtime win against Arkansas. 

The Gators’ momentum proved too strong, however, as they extended their first-half run into a 33-8 run, putting Alabama in an insurmountable hole.  

The Crimson Tide had no answer in the paint for Florida forward Tyrese Samuel. He scored 14 of his 18 points and grabbed six of his 7 rebounds in the second half. 

“The teams that can make deep tournament runs are the teams that have defensive mindsets,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “We’ve got a week to decide whether they can sit down and guard for 40 minutes or not.” 

In addition, Florida beat Alabama at its own game, outshooting the Crimson Tide from beyond the arc. Alabama went almost 18 minutes without a 3-pointer.  

The Crimson Tide’s struggles from beyond the arc can be attributed in large part to the offensive struggles of guards Latrell Wrightsell Jr. and Rylan Griffen. 

Before Friday’s contest, Oats stressed how important it was for the two guards to step up and play a significant role in the tournament after battling back from injuries. 

Together, Wrightsell and Griffen combined for one made 3-pointer in nine attempts. It was Griffen’s first game back after injuring his right calf against the Gators back on March 5.   

Oats said Griffen needed some “game reps” after recovering from the injury 

“Hopefully this gave it to him, and hopefully he plays a lot better this weekend in the NCAA tournament,” Oats said.  

Forward Nick Pringle recorded his third straight double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He got to the free-throw line consistently but made only four of eight attempts as the Crimson Tide struggled from the charity stripe all night. 

Florida shot 31-36 from the line, while Alabama shot just 16-23.  

Guard Mark Sears, as usual, led Alabama with 22 points along with four rebounds and four assists but was unable to convert on a shot from long range, going 0-4.  

With this loss, Alabama is now 1-4 in the month of March. 

Now, Alabama will look ahead to the NCAA tournament, where it will try to correct the plethora of issues that have plagued the team this month. 

“These guys are going to have to decide how bad they want to win in the NCAA tournament,” Oats said. “If we play defense for 40 minutes, we can play with anybody in the country. If we decide to take 24 minutes off on the defensive end, it’s going to be hard to beat anybody in the NCAA tournament.”  

Alabama will learn its NCAA tournament seeding on Sunday at 5 p.m. CT on CBS. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Crimson Tide is projected to be a 4-seed in this year’s tournament.

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