Arizona 88, Alabama 82: Sexton’s big night not enough to get Tide over hump

Dec 9, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Collin Sexton (2) shoots the ball as Arizona Wildcats forward Ira Lee (11) and forward Deandre Ayton (right) defend during the second half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 9, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard (2) shoots the ball as Wildcats forward Ira Lee (11) and forward Deandre Ayton (right) defend during the second half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew
TideFans.com Staff
Dec. 10, 2017

With a national audience tuned in and seemingly half the NBA scouting community on site in Tucson, Alabama traded blows all night with Arizona before falling 88-82.

What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide had no answer for DeAndre Ayton and it is very likely no one else in college basketball does either. Arizona’s 7-foot-1 freshman lottery pick in waiting recorded career highs with 29 points and 18 rebounds with a set of moves that simply feel unfair. Ayton put back offensive rebounds for dunks, he drained jumpers away from the basket, he handled the ball gracefully and even hit a natural-looking 3-pointer. Bama did everything it could to slow him down, but that proved impossible – and nothing to be ashamed of.

What were the biggest concerns?: Alabama was done in by a stretch of minutes in the first half after Collin Sexton left with two fouls. With Sexton and on the bench in favor of a patchwork lineup that included , and off the bench, the offense collapsed like a souffle in an echo chamber. Arizona pushed its lead to 11 points with nine minutes left in the half, and even though the Tide retook the lead, those missing points proved costly in the end. Ingram and were woefully inefficient from the field, making just six of their 23 combined field goal attempts. acquitted himself well with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but Ingram was the only other player with more than three rebounds.

What was the best part of the game?: Seeing Alabama clean up the parts of its game most dependent on mental focus. The Tide has largely played up or down to the level of its opponent on a given night, but it was incredibly sharp against Arizona, turning the ball over just eight times and going 24-for-28 at the foul line. If Alabama played that focused consistently, it wouldn’t constantly be going down to the wire against mid-major opponents.

Who was the star?: Sexton was scuffling for much of the first half before banking in a 3-pointer at the end of the first half. That shot not only gave Alabama a surprising 40-38 lead, it lit the fuse on a bottle rocket. Sexton scored 21 of his 30 points after halftime and only turned the ball over twice before fouling out in the closing minutes. His lightning quick moves in the paint left the Wildcats dumbfounded on defense and his fearless drives to the basket led to 16 free throw attempts (and 15 makes). It was the sixth time in nine games he scored 22 or more points.

What’s next?: Alabama gets 10 days off to wrap up final exams and integrate back into the lineup. The next game is the Rocket City Classic against Mercer on Dec. 19. Tipoff from Huntsville is scheduled for 8 p.m. Central on the SEC Network.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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