Despite a near career night for Crimson Tide guard Trevor Releford, Alabama (5-7) couldn’t pull off a much needed upset against the UCLA Bruins (11-2) in Los Angeles.
Alabama’s lack of close out ability down the stretch was once again the story against the Bruins on Saturday night. The Tide was unable to sustain each time they would take the lead. The game was even tied with 90 seconds remaining, but Alabama was held scoreless to end the game.
Trevor Releford did not disappoint after a long break for the Christmas holidays. He finished with a season-high 34 points. Releford was just two points shy of his career-high set against LSU last season. He was an astonishing 11-15 from the field including a 6-9 performance from outside.
Releford added all of his points off the bench after missing the first couple minutes of the game. Bill Walton and Dave Pasch announced on the ESPN telecast that Releford was taken out of the starting lineup for “missing a flight and a team practice.” To my knowledge this situation wasn’t reported prior to the game by any other media outlet. No other information was reported by ESPN for the rest of the game which was very strange.
In his short absence the Tide fell down by double digits in the early going. Alabama’s lack of offensive attack combined with UCLA’s complex defensive looks in the early going limited the Tide while Releford was on the bench.
Levi Randolph also had a solid game for Alabama and was the only other Tide player to finish in double figures. He added 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Shannon Hale continued to show his shooter’s touch from outside finishing 9 points, 6 of which came from beyond the three point line.
UCLA’s offensive attack was very balanced for the entire game. Five different Bruins’ players finished in double figures. Sophomore forward Tony Parker led all UCLA scorers with 16 points off the bench.
Saturday night’s loss marks the Tide’s seventh loss when allowing 70 points or more. Alabama is now 0-7 when allowing opponents to reach that mark.
It is safe to say that Alabama’s defensive brand of basketball forced UCLA to scuffle a bit on offense. The Tide held the Bruins to just 33 points in the first half. UCLA has one of the best offenses in the nation and average just over 86 points per game. They rank seventh in points per game and second in field goal percentage. The Bruins are definitely one of the best offensive teams Alabama will face all year long.
Although it would have been nice to get a win before heading into conference play, it is just time for Alabama to regroup. A tough non-conference schedule may have only yielded five wins, but the Tide also doesn’t have a single bad loss. As opposed to a year ago when Alabama had several horrible losses in December.
There’s no doubt about it, if Alabama wants to continue playing after the SEC Tournament they are going to have to pick up some big wins in conference.
The SEC has played better in non-conference play than in previous years and Kentucky and Missouri both picked up good wins against Louisville and NC State respectively.
Alabama will return home to play one final non-conference game against the Robert Morris Colonials (5-8) on January 4. Robert Morris did upset Kentucky last year, but the Colonials lost several key members off that team and haven’t picked up many big wins this year so far. Hopefully this game will provide a quick moral boost for the Tide before heading into conference play.
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