Alabama coach Anthony Grant offered no excuses in his postgame press conference about the Crimson Tide’s 84-68 loss against No. 10 Missouri on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
“We couldn’t get stops,” Grant said. “That was the story of the second half.”
The Tiger’s (12-2, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) took control of the game early, going on a 17-7 run after a travel call on Alabama forward Nick Jacobs gave the Tigers the ball. Alabama (8-6, 0-1 SEC) answered, however, with a 12-0 run of its own, and went into the half trailing 40-36.
After the Crimson Tide scored four quick points to start the second half and tie up the game, Missouri sophomore guard Jabari Brown’s three-pointer made the score 43-40, and the Tigers took the lead for the rest of regulation.
“We had a workman-like attitude there in terms of how we played there in the second half,” coach Frank Haith said. “The key for us in this ballgame was not turning the ball over — we did a great job of that and I thought we really executed, particularly down the stretch, well offensively and we made enough defensive stops.”
The game marked the Tigers' first official SEC game against a conference opponent, and first against Alabama since their 2001 matchup in the Guardians Classic tournament.
Junior guard Phil Pressey, who in his past two games set career high in assists and points on his way to earning SEC player of the week honors, scored 11 points and dished out 13 assists, while Brown scored a career high 22 points off 5-7 shooting behind the arc.
“It feels good, you know, it feels like the basket gets bigger,” Brown said about his feeling after hitting five straight three pointers. “I feel like every shot's going to go in, so you know, it’s a good feeling.”
Alabama junior guard Trevor Releford, who was recruited by former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, provided the Crimson Tide’s main scoring force throughout the game. Releford led all scorers with 19 at the half, but was held scoreless by the Tiger defense in the second half until he hit a free throw with 8:36 left in the game.
Releford, who scored a game high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting, said after the game his ties to the state of Missouri did not make the game more important than any other.
“I think it was a good opportunity to come back and play close to home and (have) my family come out and see me play,” Releford said. “I treat this game like any other SEC game, I just want to come in and get a win and worry about the next game after that."
Despite leading for the majority of the second half, the Tigers first official SEC victory also came with a late injury scare that seemed to stick with the team after the win.
Coming into the game, Missouri senior forward Laurence Bowers, who finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds in 31 minutes of play, was on pace to have a career year. The Tigers' big man, who missed all of last season with a left knee injury, may now have his future in jeopardy yet again.
With 6:19 left in the game, Bowers injured his knee during a turnover by Pressey. After hitting his knee, Bowers turned away and went down instantly. He did not return for the remainder of the game.
In his postgame press conference, Haith said the injury looked like an MCL sprain, but that it was going to be re-examined again tomorrow.
“We’re concerned when any of our guys gets hurt,” Haith said. “It’s a part of the game, but we’re very concerned, absolutely.”
The Tigers, who came into the game leading the nation with 46.7 rebounds per game, were beaten by Alabama on the boards 32 to 27. Missouri senior forward Alex Oriakhi, who filled in for Bowers down the stretch and scored 11 of his 16 points in the final 11 minutes of the game, said aggressive play made the difference in the team's victory.
“We just look at it like a regular game,” Oriakhi said. ”We’re happy we got our first SEC win, but it’s behind us now and you know, we just have to focus on the next game.”