Losing at Rupp Arena is not uncommon for Alabama basketball. Saturday’s outcome was no surprise but how it happened was not expected.
It is not quite axiomatic but close – leave by the three, die by the three. Alabama basketball coach, Nate Oats is undeterred by whatever level of risk he sees in a three-dependent offense. On Saturday in Lexington, KY, Oats’ Alabama basketball was bombed by three-balls from the Kentucky Wildcats.
John Calipari’s team is not nearly as three-dependent as the Crimson Tide. A roster fully filled with all necessary talent components allows the Cats to play more traditionally. And the Cats on the season were far below the Crimson Tide make-rate for threes; 37 percent for the Tide and 30 percent for the Wildcats.
For the Crimson Tide, beating Kentucky probably required a slightly above average deep-ball percentage than its normal, maybe 38 or 39 percent Add to that a game with low turnovers, no rebounding deficit and making key free throws.
Most of the Tide plan worked. Eight turnovers were a season-low and a number any team would love to match in a game. Rebounds were dead even at 44. The Tide was poor at the foul line, but the Cats were only slightly better. The referees were not, whistle happy, with a total of only 29 free throw attempts. The Cats shot five more but only gained an extra four points at the line.
The difference in the game was outside the arc where the Cats were tremendous, making 60 percent of their deep shots for the game. The Tide were abysmal from deep, shooting 13 percent in the second half and 19 percent for the game. The Cats shot threes; the Tide, with the exception of John Petty Jr. and Jaylen Forbes, could not have been worse. Together Petty and Forbes were 4-for-9. The rest of the team was zero-for-12. Beetle Bolden attempted half of those unproductive field goal attempts.
Wasted possessions in basketball are not like empty possessions in football. But wasted possessions, coming from poor shot selection or turnovers, cause losses. Missed threes were not the only reason the Tide shot only 36.8 percent for the game. Finishing at the rim continued to be a problem for the Tide. ESPN’s Jay Bilas commented on the Tide’s shot selection multiple times, once saying the team was “taking too many difficult shots.”
In fairness to the entire playing squad, they played hard throughout. No one can fault the effort. Kentucky was better defensively, particularly in guarding John Petty, but the Tide defense was tough and determined. The final score of 76-67 is misleading. It was a three-point game with just over two minutes to play.
This Nate Oats’ team will not back down. It is getting better with each passing week. Auburn is undefeated but the Tigers will have their hands full Wednesday night.