It took many free throws and a final minute that was far, far longer than just 60 seconds but, mercifully, Alabama’s regular season is over.
The Crimson Tide lost to Texas A&M 68-66 in College Station on Saturday, the final chapter of an ugly five-game losing streak that’s left the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament fate in grave condition.
Once considered a foregone conclusion to enter the NCAA's postseason fun, Alabama lost its final five regular season games, leaving it with much to prove when it opens the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday in St. Louis as the No. 9 seed facing Texas A&M — again.
Saturday’s loss, ensuring the program’s first five-game losing streak since 2004, contained the familiar follies. Alabama was massacred on the offensive glass, allowing double-digit offensive rebounds for the fourth time in five games, while its offense was unbalanced and stagnant with limited personnel.
Collin Sexton scored 23 points and Donta Hall chipped in 12. No other Tide player scored more than eight. Dazon Ingram chipped in eight.
With Alabama’s deficit down to six, Ingram committed his fourth foul with 8:08 remaining. Jay Jay Chandler split the free throws, but Alabama neglected to rebound the miss, allowing Chandler to corral it.
Ingram committed a foul in the open floor — four seconds after committing his fourth — disqualifying him for a final stretch during which he was sorely needed.
Without Ingram, the concussed Herbert Jones and the ineffective Daniel Giddens — the struggling 6-foot-11 Ohio State transfer did not play a minute for the first time all season — Alabama played the final eight minutes with seven scholarship players.
The Crimson Tide shot just 38 percent and made 19 of 31 at the free-throw line, a number inflated after a frenzied final minute that nearly allowed it to escape with a miracle.
Texas A&M led 63-59 with 32 seconds left and was headed to the free throw line. While the teams were getting set, Sexton and Aggies guard J.J. Starks exchanged words just behind the line.
Sexton turned his head after speaking and Starks, also a freshman, pushed Sexton’s head in plain view of the officials.
After utilizing replay review, officials issued a Flagrant 2 to Starks and ejected him. Sexton was assessed an unsportsmanlike technical foul, too, giving the Aggies two more free throws — in addition to the two they were shooting before the kerfuffle.
Texas A&M made three of its four free throws and Sexton made both of the technical free throws, giving Alabama a 66-61 deficit and the ball.
Aggies forward Robert Williams hacked Tide forward Braxton Key on a 3-pointer during the ensuing possession. Key missed the third free throw — he sunk the other two — but Alabama corralled the offensive rebound.
Tossing the ball back out on the wing, Key misfired on a 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining and Sexton lost the long rebound out of bounds, a call that originally favored Alabama.
An extended replay review — the third of the final minute — changed it, giving Texas A&M the possession.
D.J. Hogg sunk two free throws, leaving Key’s 3-pointer as time expired nothing but a superficial bucket, one the Tide required much earlier in the game.