TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Playing against physicals teams was Alabama’s kryptonite coming into SEC play. But after an impressive second half against Missouri, the Crimson Tide have answered the challenge so far.

Going into halftime, Alabama were only up by two: 36-34, and Missouri had held the Crimson Tide to just 36 percent shooting. With Mark Sears limping into the locker room, it looked like it just might not be Alabama’s day.

Up step, Rylan Griffen. The sophomore guard went off in the second half with 16 points on five-of-six shooting. He was a spark for an Alabama team that just did not quite look right.

After not making a field goal in five minutes early in the second half, it was Griffen who knocked down a three to ignite the crowd. With Coleman Coliseum getting louder and louder, Alabama started to pull further and further away.

“[Nate Oats] told me I had to get it going for us if were going to win this game,” Griffen said.

He was able to go on two 6-0 runs by himself in the second half, and he hit a big one with just over four minutes to play to give Alabama an 80-67 lead that they never let go of.

The final score of 93-75 does not indicate how this game went. Missouri was able to battle against Alabama and got stops when they had to early. They played Alabama tough for 30 of the 40 minutes, but it just happened to be the game in which Alabama really put it together at the end.

“We’ve had issues at the under 12 and under 8 timeouts of the second half…that was much improved,” Head Coach Nate Oats said.

The other big point in this game is that the Crimson Tide have played two really tough, physical teams in Mississippi State and Missouri back-to-back, and prevailed both times. The early season questions about this team after the games against Purdue, Creighton, and Arizona have been silenced for now.

However, those questions will not be silent for long. A trip to Knoxville on Saturday to face No. 6 Tennessee is up next, in what is Alabama’s biggest SEC test to date.

Nate Oats said he hopes to get Sears at 100 percent by Saturday. But if Sears is going to be out, players like Rylan Griffen, Latrell Wrightsell Jr., and Aaron Estrada will have to man the backcourt. Oats mentioned that he believes that group with Sears is the “best in the country.” That will have to show if Alabama wants to leave Knoxville with a win.

With this win though, Alabama moves to 12-5 on the year and 4-0 in SEC play. They are currently tied for first in the conference with Auburn, which should set up a great matchup on Jan. 24 in Tuscaloosa between the two teams. But before Alabama can get to that, the focus is on Tennessee and how to beat them, with or without Mark Sears.


Joe Schatz is WVUA-FM’s senior basketball writer. You can follow him on X @JoeSchatz15.