Who says the Alabama Crimson Tide can't win with defense?

The Alabama Crimson Tide advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen on Sunday because of outstanding defensive play against Grand Canyon.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

On Sunday night, Alabama Basketball fought its way through a tough game to beat Grand Canyon and advance to the Sweet 16. By today's college basketball standards, some can call the 72-61 win an ugly victory.

The game was a throwback to a time when the toughest team would win, no matter what the circumstances in a game. From that perspective, the Alabama Crimson Tide win was a thing of beauty.

Alabama was led by Mark Sears with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Sears who cramped up late, played 39 minutes. In what was at times close to a fistfight, Sears was hounded by the Grand Canyon defenders. To go along with his output, was another impressive stat - just four turnovers.

After the game, Nate Oats described Sears' performance perfectly, saying "Sears wasn’t going to lose. He wasn’t letting us lose tonight."

College basketball pundits are quick to say the Crimson Tide lives and dies by the three. It is an overused and lazy claim. It would be fair to suggest Alabama cannot shoot 36.9% in a game, including 25.8% outside the arc, and beat a good team. But that is exactly what Alabama did in the NCAA Tournament Second Round.

Talking about his entire team, Nate Oats said, "Character win, I think. We had a chance, could have folded, a lot of things didn't go our way. ... I thought we pulled it together and showed a lot of mental toughness."

Throughout the game, Alabama's defense was outstanding. So was the defense of Grand Canyon. Alabama held the Antelopes to 32.1% shooting for the game. Almost every shot by Grand Canyon was stubbornly contested by the Crimson Tide.

Alabama Crimson Tide a Blue Collar Winner

For fans of the 'Blue Collar' calculation, the Tide and the Lopes combined for 210 Blue Collar points. According to Nate Oats, the Crimson Tide gained 115 of them. That stat and Mark Sears' determination and leadership is why the Crimson Tide won the game.

Along with Mark Sears, the Tide scoring leaders were Rylan Griffen with 13, Mo Dioubate with nine, and Aaron Estrada with eight points. Estrada had 10 boards and Nick Pringle had nine rebounds. Along with his nine points, Mo Dioubate had five rebounds in 13 minutes of play.

With several minutes to go in the first half, Latrell Wrightsell left the game after a blow to the head. He did not return to the game, but is expected to play against North Carolina on Thursday,