Despite a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Alex Reese, the Alabama Crimson Tide failed in their quest to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in their program’s history. The final score shows that UCLA won by 10, but in reality, the game was close throughout, with 11 ties and eight lead changes. A major momentum swing came late in the game thanks to, of all things, the shorts of Alabama guard John Petty Jr.
Alabama and UCLA were locked in a close game in the Sweet 16
Throughout the game, neither team could put the other away for very long. Alabama grabbed an early lead thanks to pinpoint 3-point shooting before the Bruins took control. UCLA, who entered the game as an underdog to second-seeded Alabama, went into halftime with a 40-29 lead. The Crimson Tide promptly erased it with an 11-0 run to open the second half.
Alabama could have put the game out of reach in the second half were it not for their consistently poor free throw shooting. The Tide, who made 72% of their free throws heading into the contest, were a miserable 11-of-29 against UCLA.
Had they made one or two more of those, Alex Reese’s game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation would have been the game-winning shot. There would have been no need for overtime, and Alabama would be in the Elite Eight.
John Petty Jr.’s shorts cost Alabama a vital possession in the second half
With less than two minutes left, Alabama led 61-60. Crimson Tide guard John Petty, Jr. had possession and tried to make a move around UCLA’s Jaime Jacquez Jr. when the ball bounced off of Jacquez’s foot and went out of bounds.
Initially, the officials gave possession to Alabama, as the ball seemed to bounce off of a UCLA player last. But with players pointing fingers at each other, a video review was necessary. Well, we use “necessary” with the largest air quotes possible.
After a lengthy video review (and some awkward banter between Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel on the TBS telecast), the officials determined that the ball grazed John Petty’s shorts on the way out of bounds. Since the shorts technically count as part of the player, the ball still touched an Alabama player last. Therefore, the officials awarded possession to UCLA.
This was not the last questionable call of regulation. Mere seconds later, the officials missed a blatant UCLA foul. Of course, given Alabama’s poor free throw shooting for the game, it might not have made a difference.
Did Petty’s shorts cost Alabama a trip to the Elite Eight?
It’s hard to tell what impact, if any, the possession change had on the final result. After all, UCLA did not score on their resulting possession. However, if the officials gave Alabama the ball, they may have been able to either kill some clock or pad their 61-60 lead. Merely having the ball for 24 extra seconds with the lead could have been beneficial.
However, this questionable decision was far from the only reason Alabama lost the game. As mentioned before, had the Tide been just a bit more competent from the stripe, the replay would have been a non-issue. It’s worth noting that UCLA outscored Alabama 23-13 in overtime despite having their on-court leader, Johnny Juzang, on the bench. Juzang fouled out late in the second half.
Alabama head coach Nate Oats said it himself: The Tide just weren’t good enough.
“We weren’t good enough to beat them tonight. They were better,” he said after the game, per ESPN. “We had all the momentum going into overtime. They could have folded. They didn’t.”