Alabama Basketball: Rylan Griffen’s stellar Sweet 16 performance

Alabama v North Carolina
Alabama v North Carolina / Harry How/GettyImages

Many Alabama Basketball fans and national pundits were pessimistic about the Tide’s chances to beat top-seeded North Carolina in the Sweet 16. That doubt only grew when it became clear that sharpshooter Latrell Wrightsell Jr. would not be able to go after suffering a series of head injuries over the last several weeks.

Alabama relies heavily on its production from the three-point line, and the loss of its most consistent shooter was considered to be a big one. Fortunately, Alabama was able to overcome Wrightsell’s absence and get the improbable win, largely thanks to the efforts of sophomore Rylan Griffen

Griffen has been an excellent shooter in his own right, hitting two triples per game on average and connecting on nearly 39 percent of his attempts this season. He has also had his share of big games, posting the following stat lines in Bama wins:

19 points, 5-9 3PT FG against Eastern Kentucky

21 points, 5-7 3PT FG against Missouri 

17 points, 5-10 3PT FG against Auburn 

In total, he has hit four or more threes in nine different games this season. Needless to say, the stage he did it on last night was the biggest one yet.

Griffen scored 19 points against the Tar Heels, just two short of matching his career-high. More importantly, he did it on an efficient 5-8 from the three-point line, and every make seemed to be timely. Griffen repeatedly quieted mini-runs from North Carolina or answered a big UNC bucket to help shift the momentum back in the favor of the Tide. 

Clearly, Bama doesn’t win this game without Rylan Griffen’s shot-making, but the 6’6” wing was just as instrumental on the defensive end of the floor. He shouldered the task of guarding first team All-American RJ Davis and held the Tar Heels’ lead guard to one of the most inefficient shooting days of his career. His length and size advantage created endless problems for the smaller Davis, which in turn threw off the rhythm of the Carolina offense. 

While Grant Nelson’s dominant two-way performance will draw most of the headlines, and rightfully so, Griffen’s massive contributions to this win cannot be overlooked. 

By extending its season for at least another two days, Alabama also bought some time for Wrightsell to potentially return. He was considered day-to-day heading into the Sweet 16, and his season may not be over yet.

If the Tide can get him back for Saturday’s game, it raises the offensive ceiling of this team to another degree. If Wrightsell still can’t go, Coach Oats and the Bama fan base should have full confidence in Rylan Griffen and company to step up.