Coming off three tough losses to Top 8 opponents, Nate Oats asked his Alabama basketball team for 40 good minutes against struggling Eastern Kentucky. His team gave him 36 quality minutes, excluding the first four of the second half. The result was a 111-67 annihilation of Eastern Kentucky.

Here's a look at what the Crimson Tide coach said after the game.

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Opening statement

“It’s a good win going into Christmas. We needed a win like that. I thought for 36 minutes, we played really good basketball. Obviously, the start to the second half wasn’t what we wanted, but I thought we responded pretty well after the poor start to the half. A season-high in assists. We told our guys we want them to play for each other, to get the ball moving, really make sure that they’re playing unselfish basketball.

“I thought (Aaron) Estrada really led the way in doing that – almost had a triple-double. I think he had 12 (points), eight (rebounds) and seven (assists). I thought that was his best overall game he’s probably played here. He’s had better scoring games, but just how he managed the floor, rebounded it, seven assists to two turnovers, I thought he was great. Mark (Sears) had five assists and no turnovers. Not one of his better shooting nights for sure, but I thought both those guys, our point guards, kind of get the ball moving and took care of it.

“So happy with the win going into Christmas. It’d be nice after Christmas if we put 40 minutes together, but we’ll take 36 after the three-game stretch we had.”

On his message after the sloppy start to the second half

“We can’t do this. We’ve been one of the best teams in the country for large parts of most games, and then we just have stretches where we just fall apart and lose everything we’ve built up for 28, 32, 24 minutes, whatever it is. Our last four losses, we’ve all had a six-point or better lead against four top-10 teams in the country and our winning percentage at one point in the second half in all those games was over 75 percent. I’d like to see us come up with some fire, some leadership, make sure that we’re coming out, the players are leading to make sure our intensity is there. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from the coaching staff. They figured it out. I didn’t think we had it out of the second half, I didn’t think we had it after I got the T, but they eventually figured it out.”

 

“I thought it was great. I thought he’s been about the right stuff the whole year. He’s been our best perimeter defender. Other team’s best guy gets hot, he always says, ‘Put me on him. I’ve got him.’ (Michael) Moreno gets hot. Rylan did give up the one three. I think it was Moreno’s fourth three, and Rylan screwed up that one. And after that, we tried to put Rylan on him. I thought he had a really good start to the second half on Moreno, and then I thought we did a pretty good job after we kind of just told Rylan, ‘Quit switching.’ Rylan is going to just stay on him, and we’ll try to shut him down. Between him and (Latrell Wrightsell), I thought they did a pretty good job.

“But it was great to see have the ball drop. We know how good he can shoot it. I think he probably hasn’t shot it as well as he would have liked because knowing how well he can shoot it. That little stretch there in the first half when we were opening things up and he hit a few straight, it was great to see him kind of get his confidence going there.”

On the importance of having a good game from behind the arc

“I thought it was really important. Obviously, Eastern Kentucky’s three-point percentage defense hasn’t been good, but you still have to make them. And they’re not layups. You have to make the shots. They’re not guaranteed to go in, even if you’re wide open. I thought it was good that we had the kind of shooting night we had. I thought it was good guys that maybe hadn’t made a ton in the past like Rylan. (Davin) Cosby and Rylan went a combined 9-of-15. It was nice those two guys who hadn’t been two of our better shooters maybe kind of got it going.

“Sam (Walters) had another great shooting night, even if it was on low reps. I mean, you look at the number of guys that shot 50 percent or better, it was Grant (Nelson), who had struggled last game, goes 2-of-3. Grant, Rylan, Wrightsell, Sam, Davin, to have that many guys shot at least 50 percent is nice. Teams just can’t focus on Sears or just Estrada or Sam or whatever. We’ve got a lot of other guys who can make threes, too.”

On if Davin Cosby’s performance will lead to more minutes

“His issue hasn’t been shooting. We’ve known he can shoot. His issue has been his defense. That’s why he hasn’t been able to play as much. I thought he’s been working hard to get his defense better. He’s got to continue to work hard. That’s what we tell these guys. Offensively, we’ve been the No. 1 offense in the country for almost two months now, if not over. So we’re not looking for guys to help our offense. That hasn’t been the issue. Our offense has been good enough to beat anybody we play. Defense has been the issue. So if you haven’t proven yourself to be one of our better defenders in practice, you’re probably not going to get a shot to play in the game.

“Davin is working hard. He’s been giving an effort in practice. He’s doing better. He obviously showed he can shoot it. We have a lot of guys that can shoot it. Again, who can separate themselves from the pack defensively? We’ve really only had one guy, in my opinion, do that, and that’s Rylan Griffen. That’s why despite some poor shooting performances out of him, his minutes stay pretty consistent because he’s been our best perimeter defender.

“Alright, you guys have a good Christmas.”

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