TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – 31 points from Mark Sears and strong defense throughout helped Alabama dominate the Gamecocks and move to 2-0 in SEC play.

The game did not start the way Alabama would have liked. Four turnovers in the first five possessions and suddenly South Carolina jumped out to a 10-3 lead. The Gamecocks were controlling the interior, and the absence of Mohamed Wague was felt.

“They got us out of the gate, I thought we weren’t ready to play,” Head Coach Nate Oats said.

14 combined turnovers in the first half meant that scoring was a premium, but Alabama held a slight 30-29 lead going into the break.

“[Oats] was telling us that we weren’t playing hard enough…We don’t want no one to come into our gym and play harder than us,” Aaron Estrada said.

That message was clearly received by the Alabama team. While Sears was doing whatever he wanted on offense, the defensive intensity was there. South Carolina was struggling to get anything going offensively, and Alabama jumped out on a 24-5 run to open the half.

The start to the half was the embodiment of the Nate Oats style of play. Layups, dunks, and threes were the only shots attempted, and paired with defensive stops, Alabama was able to grow their lead to 54-34.

One player who really helped spur that run off the bench was Mohamed Dioubate. The freshman forward only played nine minutes but he grabbed six rebounds, and had both a block and steal during that time. It was such a good spell of play that when South Carolina called a timeout, the whole Alabama bench mobbed him as he walked off the court.

“[Dioubate] and Nick [Pringle’s] energy was really driving us,” Oats said, “We were getting beat up on the glass in the first half, and Dioubate comes in and gets six rebounds in over nine minutes…him and Pringle’s energy and toughness made a big difference for us,” Oats said.

The intensity was up and so was Alabama in that second half. After the early onslaught the team never stopped and strolled to an impressive 74-47 win over the once confident Gamecocks.

The win puts Alabama at 10-5 on the year and 2-0 in SEC play. This game also shows fans what this Alabama team really could be. Estrada said that Alabama “could be the best team in the country,” when everybody was playing like they were tonight.

Will a home win over South Carolina really push that needle? probably not. But Alabama did just play their most complete game of the season against a team that was 13-1 coming into tonight. It could be a sign of more things to come for the Crimson Tide as they get into SEC play.

The big test for the team right now is how they handle their next two games. A road test against Mississippi State on Saturday is up next, before Missouri comes into Tuscaloosa a week from today. If Alabama can play this way against those two teams, a once 6-5 team that was counted out by some will be a 12-5 team heading into ranked matchups against Tennessee and Auburn.

That is a big “if”, and this team could turn into the one that almost gave away a game to Vanderbilt last Saturday. Alabama will need that intensity that won them the game today to stay that way if they want to make a serious run. But with a battle tested schedule already, this Crimson Tide team might be able to do just that.