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What Alabama Coach Nate Oats Said After Tennessee Won In Tuscaloosa

Photo via Alabama Athletics

Tennessee pulled in sole possession of first place in the SEC on Saturday night as the Vols knocked off Alabama 81-74 in Tuscaloosa.

The Vols held Alabama to its second lowest scoring total of the season and won with balanced performances on the offensive end.

Here’s what Alabama coach Nate Oats said after the game.

More From RTI: Tennessee Shows Its More Than Dalton Knecht In Win Over Alabama

Opening Statement

“It was not the outcome we were looking for. I wanna thank the fans. They created a great atmosphere all day. It was great that we got College GameDay. It shows how far the program’s come – we’re competing for an SEC championship with a week left in the regular season. It’s out of our hands now. We’ve still got a shot at it, but we’re gonna need to get some help to earn a share of it at this point. Real disappointing.

“They’re a tough, veteran team. You’ve got to give Tennessee a lot of credit. They were down seven midway through the second half, (Dalton) Knecht’s in foul trouble. He’s kind of carried them. They had other guys step up and make big shots. (Zakai) Zeigler leads them in scoring. He was good. We didn’t do a good enough job on their other guys outside of Knecht. We did a fairly good job on Knecht. But (Jonas) Aidoo has 12 and Zeigler has 18 and (Jahmai) Mashack hits the big three in the corner and goes 2-for-2 tonight. He had a big night.

“So we’ve gotta get our guys back together. Florida was an overtime game here, so it’s not gonna be easy to win down there. We’ve gotta try to win two and hope for a little help here this week.”

On his message to the Alabama team after the loss to Tennessee

“We made two of our last 13 field goals. We didn’t score a field goal for about nine minutes. We’ve gotta make better decisions down the stretch. I thought they were the quicker team to a lot of loose balls throughout the night. If you’re gonna win a championship, there’s championship-level plays that have to be made that we didn’t make. And when you get a 7-point lead against a good team, you can’t take possessions for granted. I thought we threw away way too many possessions on the offensive end. So we’ve gotta learn from it.

“They’re a veteran group. Look, every kid they play outside of (J.P.) Estrella – played less than three minutes as a freshman. (Tobe) Awaka is a sophomore, played less than eight minutes. Everybody else is a junior or senior or fifth-year senior. You go down our list and (Jarin) Stevenson is starting as a freshman, should have been a senior in high school, 25 minutes. Sam Walters, Davin Cosby, (Mo) Dioubate. Rylan Griffen is a sophomore. We’re playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores. They need to grow up in a hurry if we’re gonna try to have a shot to win these last two and try to make a run at the SEC Tournament. We need those guys to grow up and play a little more like juniors and seniors than freshmen and sophomores.

“But you’ve gotta give Tennessee a ton of credit. They’ve put together a tough, veteran group that figures out how to win games, and they’ve been winning some tough games.” 

On Jarin Stevenson’s struggles, if he has thought about shuffling things

“Davin (Cosby is) playing well and hard. He hit some shots. You kind of look at some other stuff on the defensive stuff, like defensive efficiency numbers and things. We definitely struggled on offense late, and it might have been good to have him if we really needed some guys that could create some advantages for us and give us better shots, and maybe he could have. Maybe I could have played him a little more.

“(Nick) Pringle was great. I think Pringle has been really good in his role. He had 13 and nine. I really thought we were gonna step up and win that thing late when he’s going to the free-throw line and making all his free throws. I was proud of Nick tonight, proud of what Davin’s been able to do in some limited minutes. But we’ll have to see. Hopefully, we can get Wrightsell back here soon, and that might allow us to shake some stuff up, too. We certainly could have used him tonight.”

On Alabama playing better on the defensive end against Tennessee

“No, we did. We played a lot hard on D. We had them at a 1.05, and they’re a good team. Knecht was the leading scorer in the league, and we did a pretty good job on him, I thought. We had multiple guys – he made some tough ones late where we didn’t foul. We didn’t do what we were supposed to. But for the most part, he goes 5-of-14. I thought we showed we can guard. And there were some loose balls and some defensive rebounds that should have been 50-50 balls that we didn’t come up with late that if you’re gonna win a championship like we were trying to win tonight, you’ve gotta make those plays, and we just didn’t make enough of them late.”

On the defensive game plan against Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht

“We wanted him thinking about whether we were gonna double or not double. I’ll have to go back and look to see if it worked. Look, if you saw what he was doing to some of the teams in the league, like it was just taking games over. We watch a lot of NBA here and you see what teams to do guys like Steph Curry, Luka, Dame Lillard. When they get going, they’re almost unguardable 1-on-1, and we felt like that’s the way he – he had 25 points in the last 10 minutes of that Auburn game. Just took the thing over after Auburn was up. 

“So we didn’t want him getting in a groove, getting comfortable doing that to us, so we thought maybe putting a little question in his mind. It helped getting him in foul trouble, for sure. I don’t know if the traps helped. The foul trouble helped. A combination of everything. He still ended up with 13 points and he just missed some shots that we didn’t do a great job. He just missed some shots, too. But he’s really good. If we’re fortunate enough to play these guys again in the SEC Tournament, we’ll have to look and see if what we thought with the possessions where we did trap him.”

On Alabama reducing turnovers and forcing more turnovers

“We played much better on defense. Yeah, the points off turnovers were 17-9, that’s the difference in the game. So significantly better than the first time when it was 22. We didn’t do a very good job early. We had three quick turnovers right out of the gate. Did a pretty good job the rest – I think we only had three turnovers the next 16 minutes of the first half. So we had six at the half. 

“I’d have to go back and look, but it seemed to me when they were making that run after they got down seven in the second half, a combination of our just some bad turnovers and some bad shot selection when they – I think we made two of our last 13 field goals and mixed in some turnovers throughout that stretch where we didn’t make a field goal for almost nine minutes. When you don’t make a field goal for nine minutes, you’re probably not taking the best shots and you’re turning it over or a combination of both.”

On the frustration of ending the home SEC winning streak in this environment

“Yeah, we hadn’t lost an SEC game in over two years here. Look, man, our fans are great. I thought they were unbelievable for GameDay. I thought they were great during the game. When we needed stops, they got loud. We’ve just gotta make the plays on the court. Disappointed we took a loss at home. You look at our four losses in the league, they’re all to pretty good teams. Three of them are on the road. 

“We don’t have any bad losses to anybody at the bottom of the league. But if you’re gonna win the league, you’ve gotta win home games. So now we’re gonna have to go on the road and beat a really good Florida team if we’ve got any chance of winning this thing. We’re gonna have to regroup in a short time, go on the road and try to beat a team that took us to overtime at our own place. Hopefully, we’ll have Wrightsell back by then, we’ll see.”

On Alabama taking a season-isn’t-over approach after losing a championship-level game to Tennessee

“It’s hard. We’re not in full control of whether we win it or not anymore. We were going into tonight. We had full control over whether we won the championship. Now, we need some help. We’ll see how mature our guys are because we talk to them all the time – control the things you can control. What we can control now is our effort on Tuesday, our effort on Saturday. And if we’re looking for help and not getting it and that affects our effort then we’re not as mature as we need to be. We’ve gotta take care of our business. If we get some help, great. 

“If we don’t, we could still get a 2-seed. We’re certainly looking to get a bye. Not to play till Friday is the easiest way to win the tournament championship is to get the highest seed you can get. At this point, we’re playing for seeding, and if we get some help, great. If we don’t get any help, we didn’t deserve to win it. We needed to win this one to have full control over our destiny to whether we win the regular season or not.”

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One Response

  1. Great game for both teams! Unfortunately only one team can win. Alabama is a really good team. They should go far in the NCAA tournament. Proud of my Vols for not giving up. I really had doubts we could pull it out but we did! Give Bama credit for a really good game! GoVols!

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