Threes, Threes and More Threes: Alabama reigns supreme against Maryland

Alabama men’s basketball will advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.


Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Alexander Plant | @aplant63, Sports Editor

No. 2 seed Alabama men’s basketball took the court by storm in both halves and beat the No. 10 seed Maryland Terrapins. A barrage of fast breaks and three-point shots led to 19-4 runs in both halves. 

But once Alabama took a 65-42 lead at the 15:00 mark in the second half, the game was over for the Terps. Alabama ran out the clock with the bench players in the game and won 96-77. Coach Nate Oats was optimistic about the Crimson Tide’s play after the game.

“Really happy for our guys. It’s been a long time since they’ve played in the Sweet 16,” Oats said. “These guys have really bought into playing the right way. And I think defensively to be one of the top five teams in the country all year—but the offense was bound to come.”

In the Round of 64, Alabama struggled against No. 15 seed Iona throughout most of the game. Oats said most of those hardships chalked up to first-round jitter, and the team shook those off this game. Oats said that after the first game, he reached out to infamous Iona head coach Rick Patino for advice on how to go on a long run in March Madness. 

“I wanted to get his thoughts on us. He told me his thoughts on us,” Oats said. “He told me the same thing—he said every Louisville, Kentucky team he had, the hardest game was the first one. That’s what I’ve been telling our guys. But I told them, Coach Pitino said the same thing. He’s a hall of fame coach, won a couple of national championships, I think he knows what he’s doing.”

Sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford led the team in scoring with 21 points on the night. Like most of the scorers, he shot well and finished five of eight behind the three-point arc. Shackelford said that the team’s effort level is the main contributor to offensive success. 

“I feel like we didn’t come out the first game with as much defensive intensity as we needed to,” Shackelford said. “And you know, this game I feel like we kind of changed that. That was a big emphasis coming in today. We run off stops. Our three-ball usually falls more. I feel like that was a big reason why our three-ball fell more this game.”

The main low point of the first game was the play of senior guard John Petty Jr. He struggled to keep control of the ball and shot 23.1% from the floor and 37.5% from the free-throw line. However, the second half of the game versus Maryland was a confidence booster for Petty. He made four of his six shots from the three and expanded Alabama’s lead to double digits to put the game out of reach. Oats said that Petty’s play is integral to the Crimson Tide’s success.   

“[Petty’s play] was huge. I was happy for him. And excited for him,” Oats said. “And hopefully this gets him on a roll here. He’s just been playing super hard. For whatever reason, he wasn’t making shots. So he’s making shots now. That’s the John Petty we all know. So it’s good to have him back.”

Similar to last game, senior forward Alex Reese came in off the bench and hit important deep shots for Alabama late in the first half to put the team up eight points going into halftime. Reese finished with 13 points, which is the most he’s scored since the Oklahoma game on Jan. 30. After the game, Oats said that putting Reese in big moments like closing out the first half is a calculated move.

“We were four and seven in one- or two-possession games last year,” Oats said. “One thing that kept recurring was Reese made big shots in some of those late games last year when we needed him to. So kind of our mindset, what I thought, Reese steps up in some big moments.” 

Alabama will play its first Sweet 16 game since 2004. The team will take on the No. 11 seed UCLA Bruins on Sunday, March 28, in Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University. The game is slated for a 6:15 p.m. CT tip and will be televised on TBS. Shackelford said the team is embracing the moment of advancing right now.

“It was surreal to be honest. We dreamt to be on this stage early in the year, so to see the work on display, really our bench is great,” Shackelford said. “Our fans are great. Much love to them for all the support they bring to us. The feeling is kind of indescribable at this point because the team has worked so hard to get here. Like I said earlier, we’re going to soak up this moment and how much it took us to get here. But it’s definitely something to be proud of for this program and the organization.”