TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After trailing by as many as 16 points, Alabama was able to come back and beat the Georgia Bulldogs 85-76.

The game started out in typical Alabama road fashion. Shots were not falling, they were getting out rebounded, and Georgia controlled the momentum early. Before some people sat down in their seats, it was 17-2 Georgia after just eight minutes of play.

“They (Georgia) came out of the gate ready to play and we did not,” said Head Coach Nate Oats. “I thought we missed some shots and it affected how we played offense,” he added.

With the early struggles adding up, Alabama went into the locker room at halftime trailing 41-27. The Crimson Tide were a respectable 43 percent from the floor, but were under 20 percent from three. Meanwhile, Georgia was over 50 percent from three, and guard Noah Thomansson was leading the Bulldogs with 13 points.

Alabama’s leading scorer at halftime was Grant Nelson with six, and only four players had multiple shots fall. The normally reliable Mark Sears was stuck at four points on two-of-six shooting. The main thing keeping Alabama in the game was their ability to force turnovers, as the Bulldogs had 11 in the first half.

The second half started with both teams trading baskets, but a quick 6-0 run by Alabama cut the Georgia lead to single digits, 45-37. With the intensity starting to heat back up, the Crimson Tide went back to what works, forcing turnover and running their fast-paced offense.

After Georgia dominated the paint early, Alabama switch defensively and forced the ball out of the paint and made the Bulldogs have to make extra passes, which turned into costly turnovers. Those turnovers lead to easy transition points which gave Alabama life.

“I knew we could win this game by getting stops and rebounding the ball better,” said Nate Oats.

After the 10 minute mark in the second half, Georgia went on a nearly six minute field goal drought, and when they finally got one, it was 66-66 with four minutes left. Rylan Griffen, Grant Nelson, and Mark Sears helped get Alabama to that point, with big buckets down the stretch.

The final four minutes were really dominated by Alabama. A 5-0 run gave the Crimson Tide a 71-66 lead, and Grant Nelson made a pair of clutch threes to make the score 81-73 with under a minute left. That lead was never surrendered, and Alabama left Athens with a huge road win.

” Grant Nelson showed he’s got some mental toughness; you know he’s struggled to shoot the ball,” said Nate Oats, “We trust him to make shots,” he added.

In the second half, Alabama outscored Georgia 58-35, and shot over 60 percent from the floor. It was the type of half that Alabama was used to playing, with transition layups and three pointers being the primary mode of attack. Georgia had eight turnovers in the second half, and finished the game with 19 total.

After a struggle in the first half, three Alabama players had more than 10 points in the second half. Mark Sears lead the scoring during that time with 19 points. Grant Nelson had 14 and Rylan Griffen had 10. Georgia did not have a player in double figures in the second half, noticeably hurt by the interior defense of Alabama.

“If you’re going to try to win a conference championship these are the games you have to win on the road,” said Nate Oats.

While it is an impressive win, there is still a clear issue with this Alabama team: playing for a full 40 minutes. It’s been the primary message from Oats whenever he talks, and it is a real issue when they play more talented teams. A slow start can be overcome against Georgia, but against top 10 Tennessee it was different.

It appears as if Alabama starts games with the intention of winning the game early, primarily with their shooting. When the shots do not fall however, the team transforms into an almost mistake-filled team that has no confidence. Struggles from Sears and Estrada early did not help in Athens, but the slack was not picked up by other players.

The biggest positive from last night’s win was that Grant Nelson finally seems to be comfortable in a role. The last two games he’s started as a stretch five, with four guards around him. While that lacks size, it normally frees him up to get open looks.

Despite the stat lines, Nelson can shoot the three well. It is just about getting him the correct looks in space and for him to have the confidence to make it. He was good on both his three point attempts in the second half, and hopefully this momentum carried into the heart of conference play.

With the win, Alabama is now 15-6 and 7-1 in SEC play. They have a nice cushion at the top of the SEC for now, especially after Tennessee lost to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are in second place at 6-2, but Alabama owns the tiebreaker since the Crimson Tide beat the Gamecocks earlier.

Alabama now much refocus and prepare for a tough Mississippi State team. The Bulldogs of Starkville have kept it close with Alabama in recent years, but have never been able to take down a Nate Oats lead Crimson Tide team. Mississippi State comes into the game at 14-7 overall, and has a 3-5 SEC record.

Eyes will be on Tuscaloosa on Saturday night for the game, and Alabama will look to reward a home crowd that normally gives them a massive boost.