No. 2 Alabama basketball blown out by Oklahoma. Crimson Tide must answer wake-up call | Opinion
Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats tried to tell his players. He tried to warn them.
If the No. 2 Crimson Tide didn't play hard one game, an opponent could sneak up on them and win.
"We didn’t really listen," freshman guard Rylan Griffen said. "We didn’t come out ready to fight. The locker room, we just are focused on getting better. There was a point you could kind of feel that we thought we were kind of untouchable."
Oklahoma proved otherwise Saturday. The Sooners dominated most of the game, crushing Alabama 93-69 in Norman at the Lloyd Noble Center. It's the third-largest win by an unranked team against a team ranked in the top two of the AP poll, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The 24-point loss is also the worst loss during Oats' four seasons at Alabama (18-3, 8-0 SEC).
“To be honest with you, I don’t think we’ve been playing great for a couple weeks," Oats said. "We’ve definitely lost our edge a little bit. They got us at the right time. We’ve got to figure out how to get it back.”
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This much was clear earlier this week when Alabama had to come from behind to beat unranked Mississippi State by one bucket at Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide's intensity wasn't where it needed to be in the first half against the Bulldogs, but a halftime emphasis from the coaching staff on playing harder registered with Alabama, and it escaped with the win. That didn't happen again Saturday.
"Tried to tell our guys mature teams learn from a win," Oats said. "We obviously weren’t mature enough to learn from a win. Hopefully, a loss will help us wake up a little bit."
If Alabama isn't awake after Oklahoma (12-9, 2-6 Big 12), it never will be.
The Sooners' offense operated at will against Alabama's defense. Oklahoma seldom faced resistance, and the stellar shooting from the Sooners made Alabama pay for defensive breakdowns.
In the first half, Oklahoma shot 68% from the field as it went 19-for-28. It also made six of eight from beyond the arc. Grant Sherfield and Jalen Hill led the charge offensively, and Alabama couldn't stop them. Sherfield finished with 30 points and six assists. Hill tallied 26 points with eight rebounds.
"Sherfield, we had no answer for him," Oats said. "We obviously didn’t do a good enough job."
Oklahoma finished the game having shot 58% from the field and 69% from beyond the arc. Both were season-highs against the Crimson Tide. Gonzaga had previously held those marks at 57.1% from the field and 41.2% from beyond the arc. That was also Alabama's most recent loss prior to Oklahoma.
"Our defense was nowhere close to where it needed to be to compete in this game," Oats said.
The offense really wasn't either. Alabama's starters went a combined 13-for-40 (33%) from the field. Alabama also finished 6-for-22 (27%) from deep, which is a problem for a team that relies on 3-pointers. Griffen, who led Alabama in scoring with 15 points, hit three of them.
There was a period in the second half spanning almost nine minutes in which the Crimson Tide didn't score a field goal. Almost nine minutes.
"I didn’t do a good enough job getting these guys ready to play," Oats said. "I’ve got to figure out a better way to let these guys know what we’ve got to do and get them motivated to play a little harder."
The edge has been missing the past two games, but it can be regained.
After the Gonzaga loss, Oats asked the players for what they want to be known. Words like tough, gritty, blue collar, hard-playing, unselfish all popped up, Oats said.
Many of those qualities became staples during the nine-game winning streak that ended Saturday.
"We weren’t the toughest; we weren’t the grittiest; we weren’t the most blue collar; and we didn't play the hardest tonight," Oats said. "All of the stuff we say we wanted to be, that I felt like we got back after the Gonzaga loss, it kind of went right back to ground zero on that stuff. We’ve got to figure out: how bad do we want to be that again?"
Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News/USA TODAY Network. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama basketball gets wake-up call in blowout loss to Oklahoma