A funny thing happened on the way to college basketball’s biggest game of one-on-one for 2018.
The rest of Alabama’s team showed up.
With every one of the nine Alabama players who saw action making some sort of contribution, the Crimson Tide knocked off No. 12 Oklahoma 80-73, thrilling a raucous sellout crowd with Alabama’s first home win over a Top 15 non-conference opponent since a 1989 win over North Carolina.
Collin Sexton, whose matchup with Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young attracted much of the pre-game attention, delivered a solid, disciplined performance, leading the Crimson Tide with 18 points. But the rest of the box score was dotted with key contributions, ranging from Donta Hall’s seven points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots to Herbert Jones’ career-high 14 points.
Jones was also a key component to Alabama’s continually shifting defenses against Young. Five different Alabama players guarded Young at one time or another and while he had 17 points and eight assists, both numbers were below his season averages. The Crimson Tide also held Young scoreless over the final 11 minutes as it erased a five-point Sooner lead and pulled away for the win.
The key stretch was fueled by another UA player, Braxton Key, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers that extended the Alabama lead from a precarious 62-60 to a more comfortable 68-60 with 5:51 to play.
“I thought we probably played a little more tough-minded today than we have recently,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “There was no magic formula to what we did. Defensively, we mixed up seven different things and six of them worked. Collin was a stud, and we got important contributions from the rest of our roster. You look at Donta and Daniel Giddens (who had four points and nine rebounds off the bench), then what Herb contributed.
“When (Jones) gets going downfield he’s tough to cover and when he raises up around the basket it looks like he’s 7-foot-4. He’s getting point guard reps because the trust in him is higher.”
The first half was fast-paced and entertaining, with Alabama’s effort marred only by 11 turnovers, many of the unforced variety. The Crimson Tide led by as many as 13 points (32-19) in the opening period, although an Oklahoma run whittled that edge down to two late in the half.
Alabama (14-7) led 41-35 at intermission.
Oklahoma outscored Alabama 19-10 over the first nine minutes of the second half, but UA responded with a 13-0 run capped by the two Key 3-pointers.
“I told Braxton at halftime to keep shooting, that we had confidence in him,” Sexton said. “We know he can make those shots.”
Young indicated that he didn’t feel “held in check” by Alabama’s defense, but did compliment UA.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “They did a lot of different stuff on defense, some straight man and a lot of doubles. And we knew it would be a great atmosphere.”
Khadeem Lattin led Oklahoma (15-5) with 18 points.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.