Photo by Hannah Saad from the Crimson White

By Kathryn Gibralter

TUSCALOOSA, Ala— The Sweet Sixteen. It seemed all of Bama Nation thought they could do it. Even reporters and commentators made their bets on Bama to win it all or at least make it to the final four. The future seemed hopeful. Whispers stirring- Could Alabama turn into a basketball school?

Now a college or university doesn’t just turn into a basketball school overnight, nor did The Crimson Tide just become a football school in one season. But fans seemed enlightened with the way the men’s basketball team had been shaping up this season.

The hype was there, with each round the team went deeper, the more circulation began emitting about the potential for a future with a ring. They just had to make it past UCLA. University of California Los Angeles was pretty much an even matchup for Alabama. With decent if not great three-point shooters on both teams, it was bound to be an exciting game.

The first half was neck and neck, pinballing one way or another, with Alabama going in for layups and UCLA draining a three and continuing with an and-one. It seemed like Jahvon Quinnerly was playmaking for The Crimson Tide, as usual, driving and finishing plays with the smoothest touch, although the Bruins were up by 11 at halftime, 40-29.

The start of the 2nd half was back and forth, with missed shots, turnovers, and fouls. John Petty Jr. made both of his free throws to open up the scoring, and from there the Tide went on an 11 point run to tie it at 40. Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell decided that was a no-go and made back-to-back 2-pointers to go back up by 4.

In a highlight-reel play by Quinnerly, Joshua Primo makes a layup after a swift pass fake behind the back and a one-armed, overhead pass. Allowing Quinnerly to get the defender to back up so he could create space for the freshmen to lay the ball perfectly at the top corner of the square.

It got down to the wire, with both teams going up by free throws until with 14 seconds left the Bruins made a layup. Then came down again to make two free throws, putting them up by 3-points with 4 seconds left. 

It was Alabama’s ball. They got it into Alex Reese on the sideline and fans held their breath in anticipation. Point three seconds left and Reese sank a deep three on a buzzer-beater, tying the game and sending it to overtime at 65-65.

UCLA came out strong, winning the jump and scoring off the bat. They garnered some traction there with a steal on the defensive end and it looked like Bama decidedly had given up. The time ran out and the Bruins score went up. The Crimson Tide players on the bench had towels over their heads, looking to the ground to see if it would swallow them up as their teammates on the court went into a foul frenzy to try to get the ball back. But UCLA was making their free throws. 

It was a helpless moment, as they realized their season was over before their eyes. Jordan Bruner threw his arms around his teammates as the clock ticked down, and the buzzer rang. The final score 88-78 in favor of the #11 seed Bruins, as they pulled off the upset on the #2 seed Crimson Tide.

Even though the season didn’t end in the manner that the team and fans had wished, there’s a lot to look forward to for next season. Nate Oats is returning as head coach, and the departing seniors like Herb Jones, John Petty Jr., and Alex Reese leave their mark on the program. Upcoming stars like Jaden Shackelford and Joshua Primo have a legacy to inherit and uphold. Keep a lookout for Jahvon Quinnerly, pretty soon he will be a household name in Alabama. 

The Tide gets to start fresh after a great season. A start to a new era of Alabama Basketball.