Houston vs. Alabama score, takeaways: No. 8 Tide storm back for second win over No. 1-ranked team this season

No. 8 Alabama took down the nation's top-ranked team for the second time this season as the Crimson Tide rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half for a 71-65 win at No. 1 Houston. With the win, Alabama becomes the first team with multiple wins over top-ranked teams before New Year's Day since Duke did it in 1965-66, according to ESPN. The Crimson Tide also knocked off North Carolina in a four-overtime thriller on Nov. 27 when the Tar Heels were No. 1.

The setting made Saturday's outcome all the more impressive for Alabama as a record crowd of 7,718 at Ferttita Center witnessed the first-ever top-10 meeting at Houston's home arena. Though freshman phenom Brandon Miller struggled to an 0-for-8 day from the floor, other freshmen stepped up for the Crimson Tide in the hostile environment.

Noah Clowney led the way with 16 while Jaden Bradley added 12 as Alabama clawed its way back from the 44-29 deficit against a Houston team that entered allowing fewer points per game than any team in the nation. Down the stretch, it was Alabama's defense that looked like the nation's best as the Crimson Tide held Houston without a field goal for over over five minutes with the game on the line. An Alabama team that committed 12 turnovers in the first half committed only three in the second while making its own case for consideration as the nation's No. 1 team.

Steady freshmen 

Houston used an 18-2 run over the end of the first half and beginning of the second to take control of the game. It seemed like the Cougars were in the process of dismantling Alabama with their defense, much like they had done to every opponent during a 9-0 start. No one had scored more than 56 points against Houston until Saturday, and it seemed unlikely the Crimson Tide would pass that threshold as they struggled to find clean looks.

Fittingly, however, it was a freshman who scored to snap the run as Clowney hit a jumper at the 16:17 mark to stop the bleeding for Alabama. During the second half, four different freshmen each came up huge for the Crimson Tide even as Miller struggled from the field. The nation's No. 4 class totaled 29 of Alabama's 44 points in the half, and Miller eventually made his mark as well.

The 6-foot-9 phenom drilled 8 of 9 free throws, including six in the final minute, to help ice the game. In total, freshmen accounted for 19 of the team's final 22 points.

Alabama's defense

While Alabama's 44 second-half points against Houston stood out, the Crimson Tide would not have pulled off the win without stellar defense down the stretch. After a Reggie Chaney dunk with 5:34 remaining, Houston did not score from the field again until just 13 seconds remained. The Cougars made just 1 of their final 8 shots from the floor.

AAC Preseason Player of the Year Marcus Sasser finished just 2 of 11 from the field, and fellow guard Tramon Mark fouled out with 8:09 remaining. That left Jamal Shead to carry a heavy load for Houston. He finished with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting but missed his final six shots. Fatigue may have been a factor for Shead, who tied a season-high with 38 minutes. The Cougars finished just 3 of 13 from beyond the arc as a team, underscoring that outside shooting may be a problem for a team that entered shooting a pedestrian 33.8% from 3-point range as a team.

Alabama's place on the national stage

The Crimson Tide figure to climb even higher in the polls on Monday, and they'll have even more chances to validate themselves on the national stage before Christmas. Games with Memphis and No. 18 Gonzaga are on the schedule next week as one of the nation's toughest nonconference schedules winds to a close before SEC play begins on Dec. 28.

Last year's Alabama squad fell short of expectations, finishing unranked and as losers of a first-round NCAA Tournament game after climbing as high as No. 6 in the AP poll during the season. This year's squad appears to have the depth and tenacity to stick as a factor on the national scene.

While the freshmen rightly drew attention in the win over Houston for their poise in a hostile environment, veteran guards such as Mark Sears, Nimari Burnett and Jahvon Quinerly should provide a level of stability that keeps this team from fluctuating like last year's team did.

Live updates

Statement victory

Alabama just became the first team since Duke in 1965-66 to beat the nation's No. 1 team twice before New Year's Day. What an impressive performance for a freshman-oriented squad to enter a hostile environment and rally from a 15-point deficit in the second half against such a good defense. This team's only loss is to a UConn squad that probably has a case to be No. 1 at this point.

December 10, 2022, 10:20 PM
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Marcus Sasser

He's just 2 for 10 in the game, and with Tramon Mark fouled out, you've got to think the Cougars will need something from the AAC's preseason player of the year down the stretch here. Crimson Tide trying to take out No. 1 for the second time this season after beating North Carolina in four overtimes a couple weeks ago.

December 10, 2022, 10:07 PM

Down to the wire

Easy to forget that Alabama faced a 15-point deficit in this game. The Crimson Tide and their cast of freshmen remained unfazed in a hostile environment against a fierce defense and have positioned themselves to have a chance here late.

December 10, 2022, 10:02 PM

Tramon Mark out

Questionable call on Tramon Mark for an offensive foul is his fifth. So he's done with 10 points on the day and 8:02 still remaining. 4-point game with Alabama starting to find itself a bit offensively. Bradley and Clowney are both into double figures and Rylan Griffen has been good in this half as the Crimson Tide's freshmen play a huge role in a hostile environment.

December 10, 2022, 9:52 PM

Offense picking up

Rylan Griffin and Mark Sears just hit their first 3-pointers of the game for Alabama as the Crimson Tide are making some noise here after falling behind by 15. Jarace Walker answers with a bucket to extend Houston's lead back to 7 at the u12 media timeout. Could be a fight to the finish here if Alabama is going to get hot from outside. Brandon Miller still scoreless.

December 10, 2022, 9:43 PM

Something from Alabama

Jaden Bradley conversts a 3-point play to give Alabama a little juice with 14:18 left. Down to an 11-point game. Plenty of time still for the Crimson Tide to make something happen, but it's been a long time since they've hit a 3-point basket. Hard to see Houston giving up much in the paint unless Crimson Tide start getting out in transition.

December 10, 2022, 9:33 PM
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December 10, 2022, 9:27 PM

The rout is on

Never count out Alabama, because a 3-point shooting team like the Crimson Tide can erase a double-digit deficit quicker than you'd think. But it's going to take a heroic effort against a defense THIS nasty. Bama up to 14 turnovers and just can't get anything clean offensively. Houston showing today why it's the nation's No. 1 team.

December 10, 2022, 9:25 PM

Quite a run

Alabama is ducking for cover as Houston is starting the second half on an absolute tear. From the end of the first half until now, it's 17-4 spurt for the Cougars, who are on a 10-2 run to begin the second half. Shead, Sasser and Mark are getting going, and Alabama is in a deep hole now.

December 10, 2022, 9:21 PM
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December 10, 2022, 9:20 PM

Second half

Can Alabama get Brandon Miller going? Will Tramon Mark's late 3-point make spark some confidence for the Cougars from outside? Second half begins with a Marcus Sasser bucket and the Cougars have a 6-point cushion.

December 10, 2022, 9:17 PM

Closing flurry

A 7-2 run may not sound significant in most games, but in a defensive struggle like this, that's a significant run. It's how Houston closed the first half to flip the script after trailing for much of the first half. Tramon Mark finally hit Houston's first 3-pointer of the half with 29 seconds left to give the Cougars their largest lead of the half and send them into the break with all the momentum. Crimson Tide will need something from Brandon Miller in the second after his 0 for 7 start. Not stunning to see this vicious Houston defense slow him down, though.

December 10, 2022, 9:04 PM

Key stretch

Just before half and Houston has a chance to take a lead into the break despite the fact that it hasn't hit a 3-point shot yet. Cougars' defense has been excellent and kept them in it here. 

December 10, 2022, 8:58 PM
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