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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 basketball outlasts Grand Canyon in slugfest to move on to Sweet 16

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama Guard Rylan Griffen (3) goes up for a shot against Grand Canyon University at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, WA on Sunday, Mar 24, 2024.

Basketball fans love a Cinderella story this time of year, and as the Alabama men’s basketball team’s second-half mistakes began to pile up and cheers from those in purple became louder, it looked like the 12-seeded Antelopes would be writing their own fairy tale inside of Spokane Arena. A win for Grand Canyon University would mean the program’s first trip to the Sweet 16 ever. 

Alabama needed a hero after finding itself on the wrong end of an 8-0 run late in the second half, giving up the lead it had held on to for much of the contest. Guard Mouhamed Dioubate answered the call, scoring 8 straight points and grabbing two crucial offensive rebounds in the final six minutes of play to will the Crimson Tide to a 72-61 victory. 

“I was just playing hard, and I got lost in the game,” Dioubate said. “I wasn’t thinking about scoring. I just let the game come to me.”  

Dioubate’s season-saving performance was part of a 17-3 Alabama run that sealed the victory for the Crimson Tide.  

“I’m super happy for him,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said postgame. “He didn’t play a ton as a freshman, and some games he doesn’t play at all. He never had one second of any kind of poor attitude. He’s just been an unbelievable kid all year. Super happy he came in and won this game for us.”  

Just when it looked as if the Crimson Tide had found its footing offensively against Charleston, Alabama found itself in yet another offensive slump in the month of March, going 8-31 from long range and shooting just 36% from the floor. In the Crimson Tide’s last game, it shot over 50% from both the floor and beyond the arc.  

This would normally signal losing basketball from this Alabama team, but the Crimson Tide’s defense was finally able to put together a gritty performance when it mattered most. The Crimson Tide held Grand Canyon to just 2-20 from long range and 18-56 from the floor.  

“We’ve been using the word ‘next’ a lot lately,” Oats said. “Forget about the call that didn’t go your way, forget about the turnover, forget about the offensive possession where you missed or your teammate missed. It doesn’t matter. Just play hard on defense. This is one of our best defensive games of the year.”  

When this team has struggled offensively, it has often come down to one player. Guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. finished with just 2 points and missed both of his attempts from downtown.  

This can be attributed largely to Wrightsell’s suffering what appeared to be a head injury late in the first half. The Omaha native also suffered a head injury earlier this season that resulted in him missing significant time.  

Things weren’t all bad on offense, though.  

Despite Alabama’s struggles, guard Mark Sears looked composed and ready for the moment, dropping 26 points along with 12 rebounds and six assists. Despite a season in which Sears has flooded the stat sheet, it was his first double-double of the season.  

After facing adversity and willing its way to yet another Sweet 16, Alabama finds itself facing potentially its biggest challenge of the season: a date with the one-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in Los Angeles on Thursday. The game will be broadcast at approximately 8:39 p.m. CT on CBS. 

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