The formula was followed almost to the letter.
Mark Sears grabbed the late offensive rebound and Alabama had a late chance to tie or take a late lead. Jahvon Quinerly looked for the outlet, but Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor IV picked it. The Reed Arena crowd erupted as Quinerly was forced to foul and free throws were swept, preventing Alabama from setting a program record with a 17th conference victory.
Although there were potentially no playoff consequences from Saturday’s 67-61 final, No. 2 Alabama (26-5, 16-2 in the Southeastern Conference) had a another early shooting drop that led to a half-time deficit. And when the comeback midway through the second half came — a staple of the last three narrow wins — the No. 24 Aggies (23-8, 15-3) weren’t as easily eliminated as North Carolina. South, Arkansas and Auburn were.
“I don’t think we’re aggressive enough on offense (at first),” head coach Nate Oats said. “We return the ball too early. If we had an exact answer, I would try to correct it. I’m not sure, but we’ll talk about it and see if we can. … I think the last two games we had two and three in the first media timeout, which is not the way we want to play. We have to do a better job preparing them on how to attack what they are going to do defensively to start the game.
A few more 3-pointers started to fall for the Tide, the breakaway offense opened up, and the defense limited A&M to several scoreless stretches. When Brandon Miller fouled, there wasn’t enough offense to prevent a momentum-generating victory for the Aggies ahead of a potential rematch in eight days.
Alabama has six days to remedy its problem with recent slow starts before the SEC tournament kicks off for them in Nashville. Matches begin on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena and with their top seed, the Tide will play their opener on Friday.
“I think it’s necessary,” Oats said of the team resting between games. “We have to get our guys’ legs back under them if we could get a few shots. We have to go back to the gym and work on individual skills. … The six days before playing a match are necessary at this stage.
The Tide took their first lead with about five minutes left in the game as Quinerly swept a 3-pointer. He continued his “March JQ” streak as Oats mentioned recently, scoring 10 points and giving Tide another ball handler who could create his own shot outside of Miller.
Meanwhile, the star Tide freshman was out of line again (2 for 12) but had 19 points and 10 rebounds before earning his fifth foul with 1:59 left in the game. Sears would also foul as Jaden Bradley and Charles Bediako faced foul issues.
Alabama attempted 11 free throws, making 10 of them, compared to A&M’s 27-for-28 performance from the line. The Tide also committed 18 turnovers.
“A lot. I thought we were playing passive because we turned it over,” Oats said. start playing even more passively which is kind of a snowball effect…. Turnovers killed us They were bad and some of them just weren’t real smart games .
As was the case in his close ends, Tide’s defense was effective. This forced tough layers and prevented open eyes. A&M shot 34% from the field and hit a quarter of its 16 3-pointers. The only problem was that Alabama was worse, going 7 for 36 from deep and 33.8 percent overall.
Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at NALvarez@al.com.