Men’s basketball loses critical game to Texas A&M


CW / Hannah Saad

Jack Kennedy | @jwkennedy24, Staff Reporter

Alabama men’s basketball’s game against Texas A&M on Wednesday night marked the first of a crucial six-game stretch against teams either tied with or below the Crimson Tide in the SEC standings. With Alabama almost universally projected to miss the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide could not afford a loss to the Aggies, a Quadrant 3 opponent according to the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET).

But in a tale as old as time, the Crimson Tide dropped a winnable game in February to Texas A&M, 74-68, dealing a huge blow to its NCAA Tournament hopes. It is the second year in a row that the Aggies have given Alabama a loss when the margin for error was low for the Crimson Tide.

“Disappointing loss,” coach Nate Oats said. “It’s one we really needed and puts a big damper on making run to the NCAA Tournament.”

With 4:16 remaining in the game, freshman guard Jaden Shackelford brought the Coleman Coliseum crowd to its feet by converting an and-one opportunity to give Alabama a 62-56 lead.

And the lead never got any bigger for the Crimson Tide.

The Aggies rattled off a 12-0 run in the next three minutes to lead 68-62, which prompted Oats to call his first timeout of the second half with 57.7 seconds remaining in the game. They made their final five field goals and seven of nine free throw attempts to secure the victory.

“I maybe should have burned [a timeout] in the middle of that run,” Oats said. “Hindsight, that’s on me… I didn’t think we gave the effort in the last four minutes necessary to win the game on the defensive end.”

Coming into the game, the Aggies ranked 351st in 3-point percentage (26%) and 314th in 3-point field goals made per game (5.6). Against Alabama, though, they brought their best shooting performance of the season.

Texas A&M shot 11 of 24 (46%) from beyond the arc with guards Wendell Mitchell and Savion Flagg each shooting 4-of-7.

Alabama was able to match Texas A&M’s shooting performance by shooting 16 of 44 (36%) from three, with Shackelford scoring 24 points on 6-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc. It was Shackelford’s third straight 20-point game.

The Crimson Tide was unable to convert when its lead to begin to slip, though, as it shot just 2 of 8 from the 3-point line in the final three minutes.

“[The refs] called us for some fouls that I think if we would’ve drove it, they would have matched the calls,” Oats said. “I told the team that in the timeout. … Some of these guys that have hit big shots for us over the course of the year didn’t drop for whatever reason tonight.”

In the first half, Alabama forced 14 turnovers, including nine steals, and turned them into 14 points to lead 34-28 at half. However, in the second half, the Crimson Tide began to play at Texas A&M’s pace and allowed the Aggies to settle into their half-court offense. Alabama forced only four turnovers and turned the ball over 11 times itself in the second half.

The 11 second-half turnovers resulted in 10 points for the Aggies.

“I didn’t think we did a great job of attacking their press,” Oats said. “… We weren’t getting into our offense until 17 or 18 [seconds left on the shot clock]. We hadn’t really seen much of that. We thought we went through it in practice — obviously we didn’t go through it enough. That’s on me.”

Alabama will face Ole Miss on Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi, with tip off set for 7:30 p.m. The Rebels have won three straight home games including wins over Florida and Mississippi State.