Alabama Basketball: Major struggle for the Tide on the road in Knoxville

Alabama v Tennessee
Alabama v Tennessee / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

Alabama Basketball came into Knoxville riding a 6-game winning streak, and there were high hopes they could get their first win against a ranked opponent. That hope was dashed early in the first half as Tennessee got out to a fast start and never looked back en route to a 91-71 victory.

In a tough road environment like Thompson-Boling Arena, you have to come out fast and play mistake-free basketball. Instead, the exact opposite happened with the Tide shooting a dismal 19% from behind the arc and turning the ball over 22 times. The Vol's stifling defense set the tone for the day early and the strong second-half play we have become accustomed to since SEC play started never arrived from the Tide on Saturday. Tennesse showed why they are considered one of the top teams in the SEC, not allowing the Tide to go on any significant runs or cut the deficit to single-digits in the second half Mark Sears was the lone bright spot for the Tide, dropping 22 points and looking healthy after injuring his ankle earlier in the week.

As disappointing a loss as it was for Alabama, there is no time for dwelling on it with Auburn coming to town Wednesday night. The Tigers come in hot, winners of their last 11 games including a blowout win against Ole Miss Saturday night.

The Iron Bowl on the court has heated up on and off the court with Oats and Pearl at the helm. It will be a raucous atmosphere inside Coleman, and the team must feed off the crowd's energy. It shouldn't be hard to do so with Nick Saban in the building and the Iron Bowl trophy presentation at the half.

The effort Wednesday night will need to be that of the first four SEC games of the season. There has to be a lot of energy on the defensive side of the ball, and Alabama must take care of the ball on offense. Additionally, the three-point shot has to start falling early.

With it still being January, you can't necessarily say this is a must-win game, but a win here over Auburn could set the tone going into February and March.