Alabama Basketball Falls to No. 6 North Carolina 76-67

Alabama Athletics

Joey Blackwell

Alabama men's basketball fell 76-67 at the hands of No. 6 North Carolina during the first round of the Bad Boy Mowers Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas on Wednesday afternoon.

A 23-point performance by junior guard John Petty, Jr., and a 20-point performance by sophomore guard Kira Lewis, Jr., wasn't enough to save the Crimson Tide the overpowering rebound game of the Tar Heels.

North Carolina dominated the boards 60-31, including 23 offensive rebounds. This led to many opportunities on offense, and the Tar Heels capitalized on many of them.

“We said our transition defense, turnovers on our offense and our rebounding on the defensive end was going to be the three big keys to the game," Alabama coach Nate Oats said in a release. "I thought the turnovers were much better, we cut them from 22 in each of the last two games to 14 tonight. I thought our transition wasn’t too bad."

The Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead to start the first half, but the Crimson Tide kept it close. This was due in part to Petty, who registered 15 points on five 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes of play.

Earlier this past week, Oats’ reiterated that Alabama needed to gain control of the ball and stop giving up costly turnovers to opposing defenses. Whatever drills Oats orchestrated seemed to work, as the Crimson Tide only turned the ball over seven times in the first half, a significant improvement over its first four games.

Regardless, North Carolina seemed to always have an answer. The Tar Heels grabbed 33 rebounds compared to the Crimson Tide’s 17 in the first half, with a corresponding score 37-31. 

Soon after the start of the second half, the Tar Heels went on a 14-2 run to pull away for good. 

Alabama's John Petty Jr. defends North Carolina's Justin Pierce
Alabama's John Petty Jr. defends North Carolina's Justin PierceAlabama Athletics

The Crimson Tide fought back to within seven but was unable to overcome the deficit.

Alabama shot only 38 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.

One bright spot for the Crimson Tide was its turnovers. For the game, Alabama turned over the ball 14 times, a drastic improvement over the 20-turnover performances that have plagued the team so far this season.

While Petty led the Crimson Tide in points, junior forward Alex Reese led the team with nine rebounds. Reese left the game near the end of the first half after landing hard on his shoulder, but returned for the second half.

"I thought Alex [Reese] really did do a good job on the glass, but he’s not really built right now to be playing 40 minutes," Oats said. "So, when you go small, I thought they really beat us up, but Reese did do a really good job of rebounding the ball.”

For North Carolina, Garrison Brooks led the team in points with 20. Brooks was 7-for-13 from the field and 6-for-8 from the free-throw line. He also registered seven assists in the contest.

Up next, Alabama will face off against Iowa State, which suffered a 83-76 loss to Michigan in Game 1 of the tournament. The game is slated for a 5:30 p.m. CT tip (ESPNU).

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