KNOXVILLE, Tenn. − Alabama basketball got a rude awakening Saturday, getting blown out by Tennessee 91-71 in front of a packed house at Thompson-Boling Arena. It marked the first conference loss of the season for the Crimson Tide (12-6, 4-1 SEC) and exposed plenty of areas for improvement for a team that reverted to the poor defensive play that plagued Alabama in non-conference play.
A few observations and takeaways from Alabama’s game against Tennessee:
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Turnovers limit Alabama basketball offense
Turnovers were a major problem for the Crimson Tide, particularly in the opening minutes, but continually throughout the contest. UA totaled 22 turnovers, and most of them were committed by normally sure-handed guards. Alabama also slipped multiple times on an apparently slick floor, with Mark Sears having the most trouble with footing, which created a few early turnovers as well.
UT took full advantage, building a 27-13 lead midway through the first half and pulling away in the second.
Trouble from 3-point range
The Volunteers defense not only generated turnovers, it also defended the 3-point line exceptionally well. Alabama, which entered play averaging 29.5 3-point attempts per game, couldn’t get nearly that many open looks in Knoxville.
Tennessee played on top of screens and harassed Alabama’s shooters at the wings and at the top of the key. Alabama connected on just 4 of 21 3-pointers, two of them from Sam Walters.
Too many shots
Between Alabama’s turnover woes and its inability to keep Tennessee off the offensive glass, the Vols took an incredible 40 shots in the first half, and 66 for the game. The Vols got plenty of open looks early in the shot clock and piled up 11 offensive rebounds, which led to an insurmountable lead midway through the second half.
Up next: Alabama vs. Auburn
In a matchup of two of the best teams in the SEC, the Crimson Tide will next play host to rival Auburn on Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum (6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN). Alabama is 8-1 at home on the season, while the Tigers are 2-1 on the road. Both teams entered play Saturday in the top 10 of the NET rankings. Following that, Alabama will play host to LSU on Saturday (7 p.m. CT, ESPN).
Reach Tuscaloosa News columnist Chase Goodbread at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.