Alabama left the team to regain its lead after losing in Oklahoma

The Alabama men’s basketball team continued its nine-game winning streak Saturday in a 93-69 loss in Oklahoma. The Sooners shot 69 percent from three or seven percent better than the Crimson Tide at the free-throw line (62 percent) in the program’s worst loss since Nate Oats took over as coach in 2019. Before Saturday’s loss, he had noticed a decline.

“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve played great in a couple of weeks,” Oats said after the 24-point loss to Norman Okla. “We definitely lost our lead a bit and they gave us that at the right time. We have to figure out how to get it back.”

Alabama (18-3, 8-0 SEC) won its first seven SEC games by double digits, but it struggled at home Wednesday night to a Mississippi State team better than its record suggests. The Tide still managed to win that game 66-63 but ran into a similar situation against Oklahoma, who had lost three straight games before coming out the loser.

After the three-point win over the Bulldogs, Oats said several times it was good to find a way to win such a close contest, but there was a lot Alabama had to work on.

“We tried to tell our guys that mature teams learn from a win,” Oats said. “Obviously we weren’t mature enough to learn from a win. Hopefully a loss will help us wake up a little.

“I have to say it wasn’t that bad, but when we won the SEC two years ago, we came to Oklahoma and lost the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on the road. This allowed us to focus a bit on the SEC game. This is a big game because I think it matters for post-season seeding and all that stuff. But it doesn’t affect the SEC rankings, which is the only good thing to come of it. Hopefully we can be woken up from the conference with a defeat.”

Guard Rylan Griffen, who led the tide with 15 points off the bench in the loss, said he plans to use the loss as motivation after Oats tried to send a clear message to the team.

“He told us something like this was going to happen, and we didn’t really listen,” Griffen said. “We didn’t come out ready to fight. In the dressing room, we just focus on getting better. There was a point where you could kind of sense that we thought we were untouchable. But today we came out and lost.

“Coach Oats warned us about something like this and now that we see that we need to come back with an edge on our shoulder and start the games better.”

Alabama will return to the SEC game on Tuesday, Jan. 31 when Vanderbilt is a guest at the Coleman Coliseum. The second meeting between these two begins at 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.

The Tide will attempt to fight back against the Commodores. But how can it regain its edge? It had seemingly done so after losing to Gonzaga in mid-December but will be looking to do it again.

“I think we have to play hard,” Oats said. “The next day, after we lost to Gonzaga, we sat in the squad room and asked the guys what they wanted to be called. Words like tough, gritty, workman, maximum effort, hard play, selfless. I don’t think we were the strongest team. We weren’t the greatest. We weren’t the workers. We didn’t play our hardest tonight.

“All the stuff that we say we wanted to be, felt like we came back after losing Gonzaga, we’re kind of back to square one on that stuff. So we have to figure out how badly we want to be that again.”

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