April 17, 2024

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March Madness: Alabama survives messy battle with Grand Canyon to reach the Sweet 16

March Madness: Alabama survives messy battle with Grand Canyon to reach the Sweet 16

Quality wasn't great. Several times, the game even devolved into a chaotic AAU matchup assigned to a random summer gym instead of an NCAA Tournament site.

But in the end, Alabama did enough to keep the season alive Sunday night.

The No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide survived a tough battle to defeat No. 12 Grand Canyon 72-61 in Spokane, Washington, on Sunday in a second-round NCAA Tournament game. That officially puts them back in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the past five seasons, and sets up a matchup with top-seeded North Carolina this week in Los Angeles.

After scoring 109 points in its first-round game, many expected Alabama to run away with Sunday's game offensively. But the match was far from a penalty shootout, especially in the first minutes.

Things got controversial early on, too. Alabama coach Nate Oats was fouled for arguing with an official in the first half. Oats then criticized the referee during an in-game interview, and then Alabama's bench got a second technical before halftime.

Alabama's Latrell Wrightsell Jr. left the game in the first half after taking a shot to the head while also attempting a layup. He remained on the field for some time after his embarrassing fall, and eventually made it off the floor and into the locker room. The team then ruled him out due to a head injury, something he dealt with earlier in the season.

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After a slow start that produced just 10 points in the first six minutes, Alabama finally went ahead just before halftime with a 10-2 run to close the period β€” giving them an eight-point lead at the break. Grand Canyon went just 2 of 12 from behind the arc and missed eight free throws in the game's first 20 minutes.

The second half turned out to be very chaotic. Both teams started rushing almost everything, there was little actual attacking, and there were constant fouls back and forth as the referees largely abandoned the game. Every time Grand Canyon seemed to capitalize on a mistake, like when Gabe McGlothan pulled off a huge heist, Alabama was able to save itself.

Finally, though, the Antelopes' attack – little of it at first – was completely halted. Mohamed Diobate, who came off the bench strong in the second half, helped build a 17-3 run to end the game in Alabama's favor. That allowed the Crimson Tide to finally pull away and pick up the 11-point win.

Tywin Grant Foster led Lopez with 29 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the win. He was the only player to hit double figures, and the only one to make a 3-pointer. Lopez's squad scored just 2 of 20 from behind the arc as a team, and they missed 14 free throws. Grant Foster went 9 of 16 from the stripe himself.

Mark Sears led Alabama with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the win. Rylan Griffin added 13 points, though he was the only other player to score in double figures. Alabama shot just 37% from the field as a team, but they outscored Lopez by nine. The two teams combined for 27 total turnovers.

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Despite all the chaos and tough basketball, Alabama is moving forward. But if Oats is going to lead his team past the Tar Heels and into the Elite Eight β€” a place they haven't reached as a program since 2004 β€” they're going to have to tighten things up a bit over the coming days.