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Oregon 72, Alabama 68: Plenty of positives despite heartbreaking loss

Dec 21, 2015; Birmingham, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Riley Norris (1) drives to the basket as Oregon Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24) defends at Legacy Arena. The Ducks defeated the Crimson Tide 72-68. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2015; Birmingham, AL, USA; forward Riley Norris (1) drives to the basket as Ducks forward Dillon Brooks (24) defends at Legacy Arena. The Ducks defeated the 72-68. Mandatory Credit: TODAY Sports

native Justin Coleman scored a career-high 24 points in his return to his hometown but Alabama let a 12-point halftime lead slip away and dropped a 72-68 decision to at Legacy Arena.

What did we learn today?: The is a year ahead of schedule. While no loss feels good and it’s frustrating to think how close Alabama came to extending its winning streak to six games, but some perspective is in order. Even the most optimistic preseason projections pegged Bama to finish in the bottom third of the SEC, and that was before injuries began to scramble the starting lineup. But Monday the went toe-to-toe with a team that may have more pure talent than anyone it will see outside of Kentucky and perhaps Vanderbilt and played on even terms, without resorting to gimmicks. Even after the Ducks seized the lead with a 23-6 run, Bama never fell behind by more than six, clawed back to tie and had chances to win down the stretch. It was a huge improvement from disheartening blowouts to Dayton and Xavier last month and served notice that Alabama has a chance to at least return to the NIT, especially if it can get Shannon Hale healthy again.

What were the biggest concerns?: Retin Obasohan looked nothing like the of the Week. He made just one of his nine shots from the field, none from behind the arc, and finished with five points and one rebound. Even a so-so night from the senior guard could have put Bama over the top. The started off white-hot from 3-point range, but even as it cooled off after halftime, the number of attempts increased. Bama went from 5-for-8 in the opening 20 minutes to 4-for-13 in the second half as the got away from feeding the ball into the paint.

What was the best part of the game?: The turnstile count. On a rainy weeknight away from home during the holiday break, Alabama gave the 14,508 in attendance everything but a win. There’s always been a solid base of basketball support at Bama, but several years of underachievement and aesthetically unpleasing play took a steep toll. Monday, those fans not only got a glimpse of what’s possible down the road, but a reason to make the trip to for this year’s conference schedule. The more excitement builds this year, the more it can goose and grease the wheels for quality matchups in seasons to come. The hasn’t reached the promised land but it finally can see a glimpse.

Who was the star?: Coleman has matured dramatically since becoming the starting point guard. Against the Ducks he went 7-for-16 from the field, drained four treys and was perfect at the foul line. Add in his six assists and Coleman had a hand in well over half of Alabama’s field goals.

What’s next?: Alabama takes another seven days off before returning to Coleman Coliseum on Dec. 29 to face on the SEC Network-Plus.

Follow on Twitter @TideFansChris

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