NCAA Tournament Notebook, Day 6: Alex Reese’s heroics come up short in Alabama loss
I know I’m supposed to talk about all the teams in my usual NCAA Tournament roundup. But as I write this late on Sunday night, there’s only 1 game I want to talk about.
I guess I should still write about the other games. So, here we go:
Gonzaga won by 18 points. Michigan won by 18 points. USC won by 14 points.
There, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the game I want to talk about.
UCLA 88, Alabama 78 (OT)
I wanted this game for Alabama so bad. Mostly because I wanted this game for Alex Reese so bad.
Reese has been the unsung hero of this Crimson Tide team all year. You find me a tight game the Crimson Tide have been involved in and I’ll find you a game in which Reese has made a huge shot.
He’s a spark plug off the bench. He’d start for many other teams, but Reese and Jahvon Quinerly have been one of the top bench tandems in the entire country this season.
SEC Player and Defensive Player of the Year Herb Jones missed 2 huge free throws down the stretch against the UCLA Bruins on Sunday night. That forced the Tide to have to foul. UCLA stepped to the line and knocked down 2 clutch shots from the charity stripe to make it 65-62 with 4 seconds left.
Then, Quinerly drove the ball down the floor and passed it to Reese, who did this:
Let’s look at that shot again, from a different angle this time:
One more angle, you say? OK, here’s Reese’s incredible shot from the logo one more time:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 29, 2021
I was watching the game at my neighbor’s house, having drinks on his porch. He had his TV angled toward the deck and the audio was streaming through a loud bluetooth speaker. When Reese hit that shot, I stood up and pumped my fist, nearly spilling my drink.
He did it.
Sure, those were his only points of the night, but this is March. Winners play their best when their teams have their backs up against the wall. Reese did that on Sunday night.
These are the moments March is made of. I thought there was no way Alabama could lose in overtime:
Alex Reese just gave me goosebumps and I’m not even an Alabama fan.
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) March 29, 2021
Instead, UCLA scored 23 points in the extra 5 minutes. Yes, that’s right — 23 points. Alabama scored 13 points in overtime, which is already a crazy amount. But, the Bruins dominated the extra time and moved on to the Elite 8 with an 88-78 victory.
I wanted the win for Reese. I wanted the win for Quinerly, who has become such a star during postseason play.
Quinerly, after being benched earlier in the year, turned into a guy who had a legitimate case for Sixth Man of the Year. He turned into a guy who won the SEC Tournament’s MVP award. He turned into a guy who led Alabama’s offense with 20 points off the bench on Sunday night.
He, in all regards, turned into a special player. He became the guy coach Nate Oats was envisioning when he brought Quinerly in as a transfer from Villanova.
I wanted this win for Jones. Especially after he stepped to the line and bricked those 2 free throws down the stretch. Those shots don’t define who Jones was as a player. And it will be a damn shame if that’s the last big moment he’ll be remembered for in an Alabama uniform.
His impact on both ends of the floor is something only a handful of college players have had in recent years. But, now, Jones, John Petty Jr. and potentially Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford, could be off to the NBA.
I think Jones and Petty are goners, and for good reason, as they’ve proven all they need to prove in college. Personally, I think Shackelford and Quinerly should come back for another season in 2021-22, but I don’t want to make decisions for anyone else’s wallet, so if they want to go make money, more power to them. They’ve earned that right.
Reese and Jordan Bruner will also have decisions to make. They could leave. Or, they could take advantage of this crazy COVID-19 plagued season and return next year. They’d both be welcome additions to Oats’ 2021-22 squad, but nothing is guaranteed.
Keon Ellis, Juwan Gary and Josh Primo are waiting in the wings as the next trio of Alabama stars. The Crimson Tide wouldn’t have been competitive in this game against the Bruins without that trio, who combined for 24 points.
The Tide have a 5-star point guard coming in as part of this year’s recruiting class. That would be JD Davison, the No. 9 overall player in the 2021 class, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He looks like another star in the making.
Yes, it looks like Oats has already built a perennial winner in Tuscaloosa. But, it would be silly to let this year’s Alabama team slip through the cracks of history. The Tide won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles this year. And, they made it to the school’s first Sweet 16 since 2004.
No, they didn’t advance to the Elite 8 like that year’s team, but the Tide will be back here. Sooner, rather than later.
Oats is too good of a coach. And, whoever comes back next year will help make this team one to be reckoned with in the SEC and on a national scale.
It’s only a shame this year’s exciting team wasn’t able to extend its magical run a bit longer.