The Crimson White

Alabama defense rises to the occasion against Trae Young, Oklahoma

Sam MacDonald

Sam MacDonald

Collin Sexton scored 18 points in Alabama's 80-73 win over No. 12 Oklahoma.

Matthew Speakman

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More than 50 NBA scouts were in attendance to see a duel between two potential top-10 NBA Draft picks in Alabama guard Collin Sexton and Oklahoma guard Trae Young.

While both players went at each other multiple times, it was hardly a game of one-on-one. Alabama’s defense made sure of that.

Sending a myriad of defensive looks Young’s way, the Crimson Tide held him to his lowest point total (17) since his first game in a Sooner uniform. Young knocked down multiple tough shots, but it was clear Alabama’s defense held him in check.

“It’s nothing new,” Young said of Alabama’s defense. “I’ve seen every type of defense. They just did a lot of different defense throughout the game; just threw different things at me throughout the whole game.”

Alabama’s shifting defense secured an 80-73 win over Young and the No. 12-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide forced Young to struggle, and his teammates didn’t give him much help. Oklahoma reached its second-lowest point total all year. The Sooners only connected on 29 of its 71 shots (40 percent) in the game. 

“Our guys accepted the challenge of one of arguably the top players that’s played college basketball in the last several years,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “There was no magic formula in what we did. We probably mix up our defense three or four times. We gave (Young) about seven different looks.”

Sexton took advantage of Alabama’s defensive play and won the point guard battle against Young. He scored 18 points on 8-14 shooting. 

Johnson said Alabama wanted to make Young play defense, and Sexton was instrumental in carrying out that game plan. He attacked Young on multiple possessions and used his size to get to the rim.;

Sexton knew the hype surrounding the matchup coming into the game, and so did his teammates. 

“(My teammates) just told me that they had my back,” Sexton said. “…They wanted the matchup. My teammates, they knew the matchup and also they help me with it.”

One of the guys who helped Sexton was fellow freshman teammate Herbert Jones. He shined alongside Sexton. Jones finished 14 points, five rounds, three assists, two steals and one block. 

On one sequence, an Alabama double-team forced Oklahoma to make a long pass. Jones intercepted the pass, ran the length of the court and rose up for a two-handed dunk. 

Jones displayed on that sequence why he is an invaluable member for Alabama. His performance on both sides gave his team an edge.

“Herb is a two-way player,” Johnson said. “He’s not just a one-way player. He’s a two-way player. He’s just as good defensive as anybody we have played against.”

Sexton, Jones and Alabama’s full supporting cast all stepped up against Oklahoma. 

Even forward Braxton Key, who has struggled since coming back from an injury, found his confidence once again. He hit back-to-back threes when the Oklahoma started to gain momentum midway through the second half.

Key’s shooting stretch gave Alabama control of the game on offense, and center Donta Hall’s defense kept that momentum going. Hall blocked eight shots in the win, including two in the final two minutes of the game. 

“Donta Hall, he’s a poster child for what Alabama is all about,” Johnson said. “…The guy from Luverne, Alabama had eight big blocks tonight and we needed every one of them.”

Sexton and Young went at it all night, but one supporting cast out-weighed the other. Alabama had an answer for Young. Oklahoma did not have an answer for the nine players who saw action for Alabama.

What was advertised as a big one-on-one matchup became defined by the team defense of Alabama. Now, the Crimson Tide has its third win over a ranked team at home.

“It was huge,” Jones said. “A lot of people counted us out in a way. I feel like that game, it was a huge game to win. It was a great resume win.”

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Alabama defense rises to the occasion against Trae Young, Oklahoma