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 historic season ends at the hands of UConn

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama guard Mark Sears (#1) dribbles toward the goal during the NCAA Men’s Final Four game against Connecticut in Phoenix, AZ.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — All good things must come to an end.  

While Alabama men’s basketball hoped that its historic tournament run would last just a little bit longer, the UConn Huskies proved to be much too much, handing the Crimson Tide an 86-72 loss Saturday night to end a remarkable season.  

“We had an unbelievable run,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said, adding, “I can’t say enough about the leadership of these guys, particularly in the last few weeks. It’s unfortunate it ended tonight, but we played arguably the best team in the country.” 

Despite UConn being the college basketball titan that it is, Alabama held its own for much of the contest, especially in the first half. 

The Crimson Tide made 8 of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half but was taking a lot more shots from inside the 3-point line than usual. 

This wasn’t by design, as would become much more apparent in the second half. The Huskies simply weren’t allowing Alabama to get as many looks from long range as it usually does. 

The Crimson Tide reciprocated this tough defense late in the first half, as the game turned into a scrappy affair filled with tipped balls, missed shots and fouls. The two teams at one point went almost three minutes without scoring a basket. 

Alabama ended the first half trailing by just 4 points, looking very capable of taking down the Huskies to advance to its first national championship game.  

Alabama guard Mark Sears had a perfect first half, hitting all five of his shots from the field. He finished with a game-high 24 points along with five assists.  

The Crimson Tide’s confidence continued to build as it mounted a 7-0 run early in the second half, cutting the Huskies’ lead to just 1 point.  

During this run, Alabama forward Grant Nelson added one last posterizing dunk to his highlight reel this season, sending the sea of crimson inside State Farm Stadium into a frenzy.  

Nelson played some of the most aggressive basketball of the season, showing no fear of taking the ball into UConn center Donovan Clingan’s chest. He scored 12 of his 19 points from inside.  

Right as the Crimson Tide started to build some significant momentum, UConn began to show why it is regarded as one of the best teams in the country.  

The Huskies went on a 9-2 run, as Alabama went four minutes with just one basket.  

UConn was also able to hold the Crimson Tide to just 3-12 from long range in the second half, after allowing Alabama to shoot over 72% from beyond the arc in the first half.  

“They did a better job of running us off the 3-point line,” Sears said. “Even when we would try to create separation, they were right there to run us off the line.” 

In addition to shutting down Alabama’s offense, the Huskies beat the Crimson Tide at its own game in the second half, going 5-10 from long range.  

Alabama made just three of its last 11 shots from the field while the Huskies made seven of its last nine. 

As crucial minutes ticked off the clock and misses continued to pile up for the Crimson Tide, its hopes of a national championship appearance grew dimmer with each passing second.  

But all was not lost, at least not yet.  

With less than three minutes remaining, Sears knocked down a shot from long range to cut the Huskies’ lead to just 8 as it seemed possible that the Crimson Tide could mount a comeback.  

These hopes were quickly drowned with back-to-back dunks from UConn’s Clingan, followed by a 3-pointer from guard Tristen Newton to extend the Huskies’ lead to 15 with just over a minute remaining, signaling the impending end of Alabama’s season. 

Postgame, Oats expressed his appreciation to the fans who he says played a large part in getting the Crimson Tide to Arizona.  

“I want to thank them [the fans],” Oats said. “They’ve really supported us since we’ve gotten there. … I’m glad that I was a small part of bringing the Alabama fan base some joy through the basketball team and making a Final Four.” 

Next comes an offseason full of uncertainty for Alabama. Every player on the roster will be eligible to play next season, except for guard Aaron Estrada, who finished with 13 points in his final collegiate game. Many decisions will need to be made regarding potential draft declarations, coaching changes and transfer portal entries.  

What is certain is that this year’s team cemented itself not just in the legacy of Alabama men’s basketball, but in the history of Alabama athletics as a whole. 

While all good things must come to an end, Alabama basketball’s quest for a national championship rages on, and with Nate Oats at the helm, it looks like that trophy could be making its way to Tuscaloosa sooner, rather than later.  

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