Alabama basketball fought hard in its first game in the ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ but the North Carolina Tar Heels were too much for the Crimson Tide.
The No. 6 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels were too strong for Nate Oats’ Alabama basketball team. The Heels topped the Crimson Tide 76-67. John Petty Jr. and Kira Lewis Jr. led the Crimson Tide in scoring. Petty had 23 points and Lewis had 20.
The Crimson Tide did one thing very well. North Carolina’s leading player, freshman guard, Cole Anthony was held to just 13 shots. Anthony, son of former NBA player, Greg Anthony will be a one-and-done, NBA Lottery pick. The Heels’ offense runs through Anthony. With constant harassment from Kira Lewis, Herbert Jones and Beetle Bolden, Anthony had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Because of stubborn Crimson Tide defenders, he also made six turnovers.
The Tar Heels can also pressure on defense. The best result from the game is the Tide won the turnover battle with only 14, compared to 20 for North Carolina. The pace was fast but not scorching on every possession. The Crimson Tide still made a few unforced turnovers when attempting to play fast. During the pre-game broadcast, ESPN’s Seth Greenberg accurately defined the Tide’s recurrent problem.
Alabama is playing faster than their skill set
Yet, that was not among the biggest problems for the Crimson Tide against North Carolina. Take away John Petty’s 64 percent shooting (7-of-11) and the rest of the team shot just 33 percent. Lewis was 9-for-23, Alex Reese was 3-for-10 and Jaden Shackelford was 2-for-8. Because the Tide relied so much on shooting threes, it attempted only nine free throws. It made four, for 44 percent.
The most glaring deficiency shown by Alabama basketball was its weak inside game. The Tide struggled to score in the paint and could not consistently defend near the basket. North Carolina scored 40 points in the paint.
Even worse, North Carolina out-rebounded the Tide, 60-31. That is not a typo. The Heels pulled down 23 offensive rebounds. The Crimson Tide got just eight.
It is inevitable many Alabama basketball fans will be discouraged by a 2-3 start on the season. Honestly, the record may get worse during a tough December. That should not lead to false conclusions about Nate Oats. He has made this Alabama basketball team, tough competitors. The effort, the extra hustle and the determination are impressive.
A good example (but no means the only one) is Herbert Jones. Wednesday afternoon, Herbert missed one of several shots at the rim. He immediately responded with a sprint down the court to defend and gained a jump ball under the UNC basket.
Next up for the Crimson Tide is Iowa State on Thanksgiving afternoon. Iowa State lost to Michigan, moving into the loser’s bracket with Alabama basketball.