Alabama acquitted itself well for most of the game against Oklahoma, but another brutal road contest finished with the look of an easy win on the scoreboard as the Sooners beat Alabama 68-56 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman Saturday afternoon.
Alabama dropped to 6-5 on the year with an upcoming home contest against Birmingham Southern Monday night before commencing Southeastern Conference play against Mississippi on January 7th. Oklahoma improved to 7-2 with the win.
Alabama mustered just one second-chance bucket in the entire game against Oklahoma, when a second one might have changed the complexion of the game at the 10-minute mark in the second half. The Crimson Tide was out-rebounded 40-18 and were held to a single offensive rebound.
"This game came down to the backboard and we played our big lineup so we're disappointed we didn't rebound better," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said. "They're a big team."
"With our team it's like putting your finger in the dike. You plug one hole and you discover another," Gottfried said.
Down five points at 51-46 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game, Alabama's Chuck Davis came up with a back court steal after missing a three, and Alonzo Gee had a jumper amid the scramble to pull the Tide to within three points.
"They made a couple of big shots in the clutch," Davis said. "There were two or three where, if they missed those, who knows how the game would have turned out."
Alabama did not get within six points of the Sooners for the remainder of the game.
Despite starting the bigger lineup of Jermareo Davidson, Chuck Davis and Richard Hendrix and playing them throughout most of the game, Oklahoma's domination on the glass at the defensive end proved pivotal in the Sooners' victory.
"I felt if we could dominate one area of the game tonight, and it could be rebounding, that we could win the game," OU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "That Alabama team played such a tough schedule: Memphis, Notre Dame, NC State, Temple… You can tell they're getting better and better and better. You take Kennedy Winston and put him on that team and the junior college guard [Ray George, who did not qualify academically this year], and you can see how good they can be. That's a physically impressive team."
Said Gottfried, "We're coming. We're coming. We're not there yet but we did a lot of things well today. Kelvin's got a good team and they played hard.
"We're disappointed. We're sitting here at 6-5, we don't want to be 6-5. We've played a great schedule but we still don't want to be 6-5. BUT, we like our basketball team… I'm encourage by how we've played. We played great in the first half, a few breakdowns in the second half and we walk out of here with a loss."
The fast paced first half was played to a near draw. Alabama scored the game's first five points and led by as many as six points but the momentum swung back and forth in the final 10 minutes of the opening half.
Oklahoma took its first lead 19-18 with 10:38 to play in the half but one of a pair of Davis first-half three pointers put Alabama back on to the next trip down court. nine lead changes. The teams traded baskets for the next seven-plus minutes before OU hit three straight baskets to take a 32-30 lead.
Davis had 14 points at the break on six-of-seven shooting. Steele hit one of a pair of free throws with :43.8 for the 32-31 halftime score.
Alabama didn't have a single offensive rebound in the first half, while OU had 8. Alabama was out-rebounded in the first half 16-9 and outshot 30-19, though OU made just two more field goals, leading 14-12.
Davis scored just four second half points, but finished as the Tide's leader with 18. Steele also had 18 for Alabama. Jermareo Davidson's six rebounds were the most for Alabama.
Oklahoma shot 23-of-55 (41.8 percent) while Alabama hit 20-of-43 shots (46.5 percent). Each team had 12 turnovers and four blocked shots.
Big man Kevin Bookout led Oklahoma with 18 points and eight rebounds.