by Alex Chasen
NORMAN, Okla. – The SEC looked to win three consecutive SEC/BIG 12 Challenges, which would tie the series 4-4-2 (four wins, four losses, two ties). Game two in the challenge was No. 2 Alabama vs. unranked Oklahoma. Oklahoma was looking to turn the corner on a three-game losing streak, while the Crimson Tide looked to win their 10th game in a row.
Alabama center Charles Bediako won the tip off, which was about all that went in the Tide’s favor in this game. Oklahoma jumped out to a red-hot start, shooting 5 for 6, and held a 13-6 lead in the opening 5 minutes of the game. Coach Oats tried to light any spark offensively and defensively with two early subs (Jahvon Quinerly and Rylan Griffen).
Halfway through the first half Oklahoma kept their tide rolling, shooting an impressive 75.0% from the field and 54.5% from behind the arc. On the other side of the ball, Alabama was not creating any sort of recipe for success, shooting 21.4% from the field, and an abysmal 0.0% from three. The Sooners from the start, out-hustled and outworked Alabama. Their defensive effort was incredible, putting the NCAA on notice by shutting down the 11th-ranked offense and sending them into panic mode.
“We thought we were kind of untouchable. … Coach Oats has been warning us about something like this happening. Now that we see that, we need to come back out with an edge on our shoulder and start the games off better,” said Alabama guard Rylan Griffen.
Not only could Alabama not get anything going offensively or create nearly any stops defensively, but they also had to endure a star-studded performance from Oklahoma senior guard Grant Sherfield.
Sherfield scored 30 to go along with three rebounds and six assists on 55.0% (11-20) from the field and 80.0% (4-5) from three.
Coming out of halftime it seemed that Alabama may have made some key adjustments, closing the deficit to only 11 points. They were playing much better help defense, the pick and roll wasn’t killing them on every play like in the first half and their offense was starting to knock down shots. That stretch lasted for roughly four minutes until the effort on defense went back to non-existent and the offense started to go stagnant again. Oklahoma continued to stay focused on locking down Alabama freshman Brandon Miller, who came into the game averaging 19.5 points per game and finished with 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think we’ve been playing great for a couple of weeks. … We definitely lost our edge a little bit and they got us at the right time,” Coach Oats said in his post-game press conference.
Oklahoma caught Alabama completely off guard, shooting an outstanding 57.6% from the field and 69.2% from the three. Their impressive afternoon shooting has their record improve to 12-9, while Alabama falls to 18-3 and has their undefeated away record vanish.
The Big 12/SEC challenge was a rough outing for the SEC with rival school No. 15 Auburn losing 80 – 77 vs. unranked West Virginia. In the final SEC/BIG 12 Challenge there were many high-profile games played throughout the day. Unranked Arkansas vs. No. 17 Baylor, No. 10 Texas vs. No. 4 Tennessee and No. 9 Kansas vs. a Kentucky team that looks to be starting to turn their season around.
In the 10th and final SEC/Big 12 Challenge the Big 12 won eight out of 10 games which gives them their fifth win and a record of 5-3-2 (five wins, three losses, two ties).
Alabama will be back in action on Tuesday, returning home to Coleman Coliseum to try and get back into the win collum against Vanderbilt.