Why did Alabama basketball have such a bad start in loss to Missouri? Nate Oats seeking answers

Cecil Hurt
Tidesports.com

Alabama’s Herb Jones may have drawn contact when a potential game-winning layup attempt was blocked in the final seconds of the Crimson Tide’s 68-65 loss at Missouri on Saturday.

Nate Oats says it shouldn’t have come down to that.

"I thought the kid landed on Herb's back,” said after the game of Mitchell Smith’s blocked shot in the closing seconds. “I saw it live, I thought it was a foul live. I haven’t seen the replay. It was a tough call to lose the game on. But I haven't seen it, I don't want to say for sure. Refs in the SEC are pretty good, nobody's perfect. If he missed it, he missed it. We can't put ourselves in that spot.

“I wish we hadn't put ourselves in a spot where it came down to a whistle or not getting a whistle in the last five seconds."

Alabama (15-5, 10-1 SEC) trailed the Tigers 58-36 with 13:05 to play, then outscored Missouri 29-10, making the final score close but not close enough. It was Alabama’s second straight Saturday loss in a nationally-televised ESPN Saturday game.

"We're not ready to play in the first half,” Oats said. “Now it has cost us twice, really three times with Western Kentucky.

“I told the guys, ‘ESPN wants us on, we’re the best team in the SEC, there's a reason we're playing at 11 a.m.’ But we just weren't ready to go. If I had the answer, I'd fix it."

The fix will have to come quickly as Alabama is back on the road Tuesday for an SEC game at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have had numerous COVID-19 related scheduling issues and were 5-6 going into a Saturday afternoon's game against Mississippi State, but  Oats’ immediate concerns were with his own team.

"I have to figure out a way to get (John) Petty more shots,” Oats said. “We have to figure out a way to use him as a great offensive threat.

"We didn’t get anything for him in the first half. In the second half, the game loosened up a little and he got some shots. (Jaden) Shackelford (who led Alabama with 15 points despite making just one 3-pointer) is pretty aggressive (and) we need someone to be aggressive, I don't think he'll continue to shoot 33 percent.

”But we are in a tight race now. We have to find a way to respond.”

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt