Iowa State 104, Alabama 89: Defensive collapse exposes all of Tide’s troubles

Alabama surrendered the most points it had in nearly two decades as Iowa State ran away with a 104-89 victory in a consolation bracket game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

What did we learn today?: Expectations for this season and perhaps next season need to be ratcheted down. Way down. Nate Oats himself said in the preseason he regarded Bama as a potential NCAA tournament team. Several weeks, two season-ending ACL tears and a denied eligibility appeal later, Crimson Tide fans should be hoping to avoid a losing season and bottom-four finish in the SEC. Bama has looked badly out of place all week in this stacked tournament field and whatever effort it expended making a quarterfinal loss to North Carolina was long gone against the Cyclones. ISU shot better than 52 percent from the floor, made 15 3-pointers and converted 17 Tide turnovers into 24 points. A 20-5 Iowa State run to end the first half put Bama in a deep hole and a 14-0 outburst after an Alabama rally erased any lingering doubts.

What were the biggest concerns?: Bama’s hopes for this season rested mostly on the hope that Kira Lewis would make the leap from good to elite in one offseason. Instead this week in The Bahamas has exposed many of the flaws in his game. If he can’t outrun the defense on his initial drive to the basket, he isn’t physical enough to impose his will and get the ball through the rim (or at least draw a shooting foul). He can struggle to create jump shots off the dribble and forces too many plays that end up as live ball turnovers. Lewis missed 10 of his 13 shots from the field, meekly finishing with eight points and five assists against four turnovers. Remarkably, Alabama only managed two double digit scorers while reaching a season high in points.

What was the best part of the game?: Oats is sticking to his unvarnished opinions just as tightly as his breakneck tempo. On postgame radio he stated plainly that “our defense sucked.” In the press conference he called the game “a gigantic step backward.” With his depth wiped out, Oats doesn’t have much flexibility to withhold playing time for unsatisfactory efforts. His ability to communicate clearly will be put to the test often this season, and it is a little comforting to know that problems aren’t being papered over.

Who was the star?: If there was a basketball league that played entirely inside hotel ballrooms, John Petty would be the MVP. The junior from Huntsville scored 11 points before the game was even four minutes old and finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds, his first double-double. He was 6-for-9 from behind the arc and 11-for-22 overall from the floor. Add in his 23 points against North Carolina and he is making a case to be the rare player from the seventh-place game to land on an all-tournament team. He’s been the difference in a frustrating week and complete humiliation.

What’s next?: The weakest remaining team on the season’s schedule awaits in the last game from Atlantis. Southern Miss seeks its first Division I win on Friday at approximately 8:30 p.m. Central on ESPNU.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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