After Historic Beatdown of LSU, Nate Oats Believes Alabama Basketball Can Get to Another Level

The Crimson Tide coach says the best is yet to come for his squad that has won its last eight games
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It's been over a month now since the last time the University of Alabama has lost a basketball game. 

During this stretch, the Crimson Tide has earned home wins against East Tennessee State, Ole Miss, Florida, and Arkansas, and road victories at Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, and most recently, LSU on Tuesday night. 

Alabama, who was picked to finish fifth in the Southeastern Conference preseason media poll, has won its first seven league games by an average of 18 points. 

All of its wins have come against teams who were picked to finish in the top half of the conference with the exception of the Rebels who were picked ninth.

"It's been real different," Crimson Tide guard John Petty Jr., who drained eight three-pointers against the Tigers, said of the team's winning streak since its last loss on Dec. 19. "Our guys our locked in. Our seniors have done a great job making sure our younger guys don't let up."

Coach Nate Oats credits the recent success to the idea of everyone on the team buying into seeing one another play well and do what's best for the collective team, rather than promoting oneself above the unit.

"When you see guys pulling for each other," Oats said. "I mean there's been multiple times when guys who are on the bench will tell me to leave the current group on the floor... When guys are pulling for their teammates as hard as our guys are, good things happen...

"Really can't say enough about the job Petty, Herb [Jones], [Alex] Reese, [Jordan] Bruner, seniors, even Tyler Barnes, our walk-on senior has been great. He captains our scout team and does an unbelievable job. Five seniors fully locked in having a great senior year."

For example, freshman guard Josh Primo only scored three points over the weekend versus the Razorbacks but still won the team's Hard Hat Award for earning the most blue-collar points. But against the Bayou Bengals, he nailed six triples and tied a career-high 22 points. 

"Primo didn't score well last game, but he's been locked in to doing the little stuff," Oats said. "You can’t control whether your shot goes in or not, really... What you can control is how hard you play, how focused you are, are you diving on the floor for loose balls? Are you getting rebounds? Are you taking charges? And when you just focus on that and let the offense flow, it flows pretty well."

Even without senior forward Jordan Bruner, who's out with a torn meniscus, Alabama has now beaten LSU and Arkansas by a combined 61 points over the last four days. 

Now being ranked inside the top 20 in both major polls, it is one of Petty's responsibilities to keep this squad hungry and humble.

"Our team chemistry is out the roof right now," Petty said. "I think it starts with keeping our guys locked in on the offensive end, moving the ball around. Then on defense, guys are talking more and communicating. That helps with the flow of the game. As for the momentum we have, we want to keep level heads and keep playing the same way we have been playing and going out and dominating."

With Mississippi State on deck for the Crimson Tide on Saturday evening (5 p.m (CT), SEC Network) inside Coleman Coliseum, Oats believes there is another level that this team can get to, as it continues its march toward a SEC regular season title.

"There actually is because we’re still making mistakes,” Oats said. “We had 16 and 14 turnovers in those two games. We’re averaging 15 turnovers. We have guys who are not playing particularly well right now that can give us a lot more. The rebounding, we were pretty good until the last eight minutes. I was a little bit disappointed in how we closed the game in the last eight. The rebounding we need to continue to stress and get better at. We’ll do a cleanup from this game. There may not be too many cleanups, but we’ll do a cleanup. 

"We just got to keep getting better. As soon as we think there’s nothing to improve, we’re going backward. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, and we’re trying to get better every time out.”