Everything Nate Oats said after Alabama won the SEC Tournament Championship

For the second time in three seasons, Nate Oats and the Alabama men’s basketball team have cut down the nets in Nashville as the SEC Tournament champs.

Alabama controlled the game over for the majority of the contest, but a flurry of threes and dunks in the middle portion of the second half led the Crimson Tide to a dominating 82-63 win over Texas A&M.

On Sunday, Alabama also secured the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Following the win, Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats spoke to members of the media to discuss his team’s performance. Here is everything coach Oats had to say!

Opening statement

“It was a hard-fought contest. Hard to open the thing up. I mean, they’re a tough, great team. We just lost to them eight days ago. We challenged our guards, we had to do better. Last time we played ’em, their starting backcourt with Taylor and Radford and Dennis were all in double figures. Taylor and Radford were over 20, Taylor had 28. The rest of the team, only three other guys scored. They were one point, two points, four points. We really challenged our guards, we had to do better. I thought we did a great job on some of the opposing team’s best players in this tournament. Kobe Brown was First Team All-SEC, scored six on us yesterday. Wade Taylor, First Team All-SEC, didn’t make his first field goal until nine minutes in the second half. I think Quinerly did an unbelievable job on Taylor today. Proud of our defense.

“Thought we did a good job taking care of the ball. A lot better this game. We said offensively we’re going to have to take care of the ball. We had 16 assists, only 12 turnovers for the tournament. We had 55 assists, that’s almost 20 a game. I thought our guys did a great job sharing the ball, moving the ball. I told them just keep taking shots. We didn’t shoot it great today, but 33% wasn’t bad. I thought we were able to get the type of shots we wanted. We took 36 threes, 22 at-the-rim shots. Only got five non-rim twos, as opposed to us forcing them into taking 26 non-rim twos. So kind our defensive philosophy, how we want to work. Field goal percentage pretty good.

“I thought this is the best game Charles played since he’s been in an Alabama uniform. Charles came out, impacted the game. We were plus 33 when Charles was in the game. 13 rebounds, 12 points, five blocks. Affected a lot of shots where he didn’t get blocks. Really happy with that. Obviously Quinerly stepped up huge both times we have been here in Nashville. If we had an NBA team, I would tell him to try to get on the NBA team. 6-0 in Nashville. He shows up big every time he comes here. Nice it’s Brandon’s home city. Tournament MVP when he’s in front of a lot of friends and family back here at home.

“Ecstatic for our guys. They’re a great group of kids that bonded, played together. We had some goals at the beginning of the year, regular season championship was one of them. We got that. Tournament championship was one. They came out ready to play today. Couldn’t be happier for them. Bus ride home from Nashville will be a lot more fun now that we got a win. We’re going to stick around here and watch Selection Sunday to see what our matchups will be.”

On what it meant to get his first win over A&M and second SEC Tournament Championship

“I mean, look, Buzz does an unbelievable job. You look at how he’s turned that program around. It’s not necessarily special to get against them, we’re just 0-3 against them since I got here. Haven’t played that many games. It’s the only school since I got here that we have a losing record against. We made sure we really prepared for this. I thought our coaches did a really good job on both sides of the ball. We didn’t do a great job preparing our guys for the game at their place last week I didn’t think. It’s a lot more special to win the SEC.

“The SEC’s a really good basketball league. Got some really good basketball programs in this league. I mean, obviously Kentucky’s Kentucky, everybody knows. You kind of go down the list. Auburn has been to a Final Four. It’s our rival school. Arkansas, got great talent. You look at the four teams that were in this semifinals, Missouri, Coach Gates has done a great job. Stackhouse has done an unbelievable job. To beat the teams we had to beat to get here was not easy.

“So proud of the guys, proud of their effort, proud they were able to get really focused. Got a lot of mental toughness. To sweep it regular season and tournament twice in three years, with a totally different team, Quinerly is a big part of both, speaks to the level of players who have been able to get in here. You can’t win these games without players. We’re fortunate to have the best player on the floor this year every time we walked out with Brandon. Quinerly has been unbelievable for us. Seems like he shows up in March. We have the March version of Quinerly for sure. Happy for the team but particularly those two.”

On how this year’s team is different than the 2020-21 team that won both titles

“You know what, I think we were No. 1 for a week. We might quite possibly be a No. 1 overall seed. We were a 2 seed before. We got to the Sweet 16. The second weekend of the tournament’s not easy to do. We didn’t make free throws against UCLA, went to overtime, we lost. This group’s different. They’re both really special in my eyes. That group was a group that decided to buy into the new staff, us playing, recruited by a previous staff. Without that group, we’re not where we’re at. We were able to turn the whole narrative of Alabama basketball back in a great direction. Now we’ve got a new group. Quinerly is still here obviously. A lot of new guys. Roster was recruited entirely by our staff. Different. They all came here to play a certain style.

“I think we’re proving you can play fast, you can play a modern style in college, up-tempo, shooting a lot of threes. As long as your defense is where it needs to be, you can win. Very distinctly different groups. I like this group. I think we’re third in the country in defense, just like the group two years ago. We have a little bit more offensive firepower, a little bit more versatility, a little more depth. We don’t have Herb Jones on defense, but we got Charles. We have better rim protection. I think you saw how good we can be on defense when everybody’s locked in. Similar in a lot of ways, but definitely different groups. Love each of ’em. Excited to see what we can do with this group in the NCAA tournament.”

On what Charles Bediako means to the Alabama defense

“With the way we’ve designed our defense, Charlie Henry, my assistant that runs the defense, came from the NBA. We’re third in the country in defensive efficiency two years ago without a rim protector like him. We did it differently that year. This year with Charles at the rim, we’re trying to send everything — run them off the three-point line and run him downhill to the rim. Charles anchors the defense when he’s in. He affects a lot of shots. I’m looking, they shot 16 threes. They shot 26 non-rim twos. They were 3 for 26 on non-rim twos, 5 of 16 from three. They shot under 30% from the floor. A lot of that is due to Charles.

“Obviously our guards have to do a good job sending the ball down into the lane. Those guards from Texas A&M, most guards didn’t want to go into the rim against Charles, so they take a lot of non-rim twos. 3 of 26 they were today. That’s 11%. Great defense for us when you can force midrange twos. If you don’t have Charles at the rim to block ’em, those end up being more at the rims. Your at the rim percentage is going to be a lot higher. They finished 46% on the active rims; they didn’t get nearly as many of them. They only got 24 of those. Without Charles anchoring it, it’s not going to be what it is. We have a lot of other guys that are good on defense, too. Pringle is getting better. Backup center. Backs up Clowney. Neither of those are quite Charles, but they’re both getting better in their own right.”

On why Alabama is deserving of the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament

“I don’t get into all that. We play the games in our schedule. You cover us a lot. You know how we like to schedule. If you don’t play the best, I don’t think you can be the best. We went on the road to Houston, won at Houston. They’re going to be a 1 seed, too. I’m not sure who the other 1 seeds will be. If you look at our résumé, it’s pretty strong. That can make us the No. 1 overall if they choose to. If you’re comparing two teams, one of them won on the road at the other one, it comes down to those two, it probably makes it a little easier because we were able to play ’em. Houston’s an unbelievable team, too. They got a great résumé.

“I’m not sure who’s in the conversation. I think Kansas lost in the Big 12 tournament. They’re really good. Got a really strong résumé, I’ve seen. Just have to see how much they value conference tournaments and the level of play in the conference tournament. I mean, the SEC is one of the best leagues in the country, won the regular season and conference tournament both. We won on the road at Houston. The Carolina win doesn’t look as good now. They were No. 1 in the country when we beat ’em. I thought we played pretty well up there. We beat Michigan State. At the time they were a little better. They’re still a really good program.

“I’m not sure who’s in the conversation. I think Kansas lost in the Big 12 tournament. They’re really good. Got a really strong résumé, I’ve seen. Just have to see how much they value conference tournaments and the level of play in the conference tournament. I mean, the SEC is one of the best leagues in the country, won the regular season and conference tournament both. We won on the road at Houston. The Carolina win doesn’t look as good now. They were No. 1 in the country when we beat ’em. I thought we played pretty well up there. We beat Michigan State. At the time they were a little better. They’re still a really good program.

“I think we did a good job in the non-conference. That’s the thing with us, too, we’re going to help our league out by how we schedule the non-conference. When we win those big games, it helps the league out. We get in the league, we’re going to do a little bit better. We’re going to continue to schedule that way. I think it’s paid off every year we’ve been here. Hopefully it will pay off again this year.”

On his three keys to winning the national championship

“I think we’ve got a really good chance to win it. If you’re going to give me three keys, I’m going to go back to what has kind of bothered us a little bit this year. Turnovers. If we can consistently take care of the ball, not turn it over where we get shots up, that’s number one. Number two is just our defensive intensity. I think you saw it today. It was a lot different than it’s been. Our Texas A&M game in College Station, then look at what it was today. Quinerly’s intensity. It’s not a specific thing, but how hard do we want to play on D? When our defensive intensity is up, locked into a scouting report like we were today, we’re one of the best defenses and teams in the country.

“The last thing I’d say is can we generate enough we call margin plays? Can we win the second chance? Today I’m looking at second-chance points. We won it 14-11. Can we win the free throw deal? We didn’t today. They were 20 of 24, we were 16 of 22. Can we win the transition points. We call them margin plays. We were 17-8 today. Can we win the margin games? Can we take care of the ball, come with a defensive intensity? If we can do that, we’re going to be playing hopefully three weeks from tomorrow and having a chance to do that. It’s not easy. You got to do it six games in a row. What I won’t say is we’ve got to shoot it well. We’ve tried to build a team that can still win when we don’t shoot it well. Can we be great on defense, rebound the ball well, take care of the ball. If we do that, even if we shoot it poorly, I think we can generate enough free throws, rim shots to win. I think we’ve got a chance to win the whole thing, like you said.”

On his message to the team when media attention is away from the game of basketball

“Obviously we never lose sight of the tragedy that’s kind of marked our season. It’s always there. Today, with the team, we’re going to celebrate this win without losing sight of that. Moving forward, we’re going to try to keep the team focused on the task at hand, just like we have, without ever losing sight of the fact it’s an unbelievably sad situation. Our guys have been able to do a pretty good job of that, I think. Love to celebrate today what we were able to accomplish together as a team.”

On how much of an emphasis was placed on rebounding against Texas A&M

“Huge point of emphasis. Coach Hodgson coaches our bigs. He was all over ’em. Charles I believe had seven boards in the first half. He came out ready to play. I thought he dominated the game on the interior. I challenged Clowney at halftime. He was a zero, zero points, rebounds, blue-collar points. He was in foul trouble obviously. But he played eight minutes. I said, Look, we need you to step up if we’re going to win this game. He stepped up in the second half. He had 11 rebounds. To go from zero to 11 in 12 minutes in the second half, 11 rebounds in 12 minutes, he stepped up.

“Clowney has been huge for what we’ve been able to do. We had three guys in double-figure rebounds, Clowney, Miller, Bediako. Based on our starting front court, it was big. Second-chance points, they need those to win those. They need points off turnovers, need to turn people over, second-chance points, margin plays. They were great at it all year. To rebound a team that tough and physical, they really hang their hat on that type of stuff. To out-rebound them by 13 was huge.”

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Story originally appeared on Roll Tide Wire