INDIANAPOLIS — After a long season of blowing away expectations and far outperforming what most had predicted, Alabama basketball fell in the Sweet 16 on Sunday evening in overtime to UCLA.
Poor free-throw shooting along with hitting just seven of 28 shots from beyond the arc caught up to the Crimson Tide inside Hinkle Fieldhouse, resulting in a 88-78 overtime loss at the hands of the No. 11 seed Bruins.
On Hinkle's historic court following the disappointing loss, seniors John Petty Jr. and Herb Jones exchanged a long, tearful embrace on the court. Petty then shared the same embrace with grad-transfer Jordan Bruner. The Alabama upperclassmen played a large part in changing the culture of Alabama basketball and fulfilling second-year coach Nate Oats' vision for the program: a school with a basketball program with the potential to win championships.
Following the game, Petty remarked on the emotion that was going through he and his teammates' heads as their season came to a close.
"I feel like the most I'll remember is the bond this team created," Petty said. "This is probably by far one of the closest teams that I've been on. Outside of basketball we were always together, we were always bonding and we were just so close together so I feel like that translated on the court."
Petty then went on to elaborate on what he'll remember most from his senior season with the Crimson Tide.
"I feel like what I'm going to remember most is just the bond we shared — just all the memories that we had — and just how hard we fought for each other. Throughout the season if there was one man down, the next man up and everybody had each other's back so I feel like that's what I'll remember the most."
Regardless of how the season ended in the Sweet 16, this Alabama team will be one that will be remembered for a long time in Tuscaloosa as the team that shifted the outlook on Alabama basketball.
Picked to finished fifth in the conference in the preseason, the Crimson Tide fought and triumphed as regular-season as well as SEC tournament champions.
Oats said that he wants his guys to walk out of Hinkle Fieldhouse with their heads held high.
"As far as our guys go, I'd say it's a historic season," Oats said. "I don't want them to walk out of this locker room with their heads down. You can make the argument we're one of the best, if not the best, Alabama basketball teams in history. I mean, won the SEC regular season, the tournament. There's all kinds of records that were taking place."
As time goes on, the seniors on this year's Crimson Tide basketball team will long be remembered as those that made an impact on the program when it needed it most. Jones will forever be remembered for his two one-handed free throws against LSU in the 2019-2020 season. Petty will be remembered for his dynamic performances from beyond the arc. Alex Reese will be remembered for his continual support from the bench in his final season.
Oats remarked that the three seniors stuck around when they didn't have to, but their buying into the program is what shaped it into what it is today.
"These seniors, you think about Petty, Reese, Herb Jones, what they've meant to the program," Oats said. "They didn't have to stick around and be coached by a guy that didn't recruit them. They didn't have to buy into everything we were trying to sell. They did.
"You know, Tyler Barnes, a walk-on, he's one of the best kids I've ever met. I love him. He's huge for the culture of this program. You add in a kid like Jordan Bruner, who turned down a lot of really good basketball programs to come try to change Alabama basketball, and he did that. He helped our culture a lot."
While the season might have ended in tears of disappointment, if Oats and his staff continue to build upon what they've established over the last two seasons at Alabama, those tears will no doubt turn into tears of joy as time and growth continue to pass.