The Crimson Tide basketball team started slowly, but once they got their bearings, rolled to a 79-69 victory over Stephen F Austin on Sunday. The trip by Bama to Nacogdoches, Texas, was considered the biggest home game for the Lumberjacks in the history of their program. There was plenty of hype and atmosphere for the home team, with a sellout crowd, a pregame parade, a white-out, and free student admission. Bama stuck with their starting lineup of John Petty, Kira Lewis, Donta Hall, Herbert Jones, and Tevin Mack.
The early part of the contest set the game of basketball back 100 years, with a 2-2 score after five minutes, that included six turnovers by the Tide. Both teams picked up the pace around the eight minute mark, and the half ended with Bama leading by a score of 41-34. After the very slow start, the Tide ended the half shooting 16-36 for 44% and 7-19 from the three point line (37%), and 2-2 from the free throw line. The Lumberjacks were 15-37 for 40% at the break, including 4-13 (30%) from deep, and did not attempt a free throw.
The Tide came out firing in the second half with Lewis and Hall asserting themselves to help build a 50-38 lead at the 15 minute break. At the 12 minute mark coach Avery Johnson chose to go with a lineup of Avery Johnson Jr, Galin Smith, Dazon Ingram, Riley Norris, and Petty, and the spread was quickly cut to 58-54. Lewis and Hall came back in just in time, and stretched the lead back out.
At the three minute mark the ‘Jacks cut the deficit to 68-65 and the sell out crowd of 7,100 was getting into the game, fifth year senior Riley Norris quieted the crowd with a pair of his four made three pointers of the game. In the last few minutes, the Tide paraded to the line and made just enough of their attempts to keep the lead comfortably, before ending the game on the good end of a 79-69 score.
The Tide ended the game shooting 27-61 for 44%, with 11-31 for 34% from the three point line and 12-18 (67%) from the free throw stripe. The team finished with 47 rebounds, 15 assists, 18 turnovers, four blocked shots and three steals. The Lumberjacks were 29-68 for 42%, 6-19 (31%) from deep, and 5-8 for 63% from the free throw line. SFA finished with 31 rebounds, seven assists, six steals, five blocks, and 12 turnovers.
Lewis had another big game with 17 points and eight assists, with two rebounds and three turnovers. Hall had another double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds with three blocked shots. His presence in the middle was huge all night. Mack continues his solid play of late with 12 points in 24 minutes. Norris only played 19 minutes, but was likely the MVP of the game, providing 14 points on 5-10 shooting, with 4-7 from the three point line. The hard nose senior added six rebounds, drew a charge, and contributed toughness, and hustle that this team needs. Ingram used his size and strength to garner eight points and grab eight rebounds, with three assists.
Bama improved to 9-3 with the win, while SFA fell to 7-5 on the year. Austin was picked to win their conference this season, so hopefully they will get things turned around and end up with a strong season for the Tide’s strength of schedule. This wasn't an outstanding win, but it was a road win over a potential tournament team in a hostile environment. Bama only has one out of conference game left, when the play at Baylor on January 26th in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
SEC play begins on Saturday when the Tide will host Kentucky in a 12 noon CT tip. The Cats haven't had a great start to the season, but have turned things around in the last month or so. As always they are loaded with five star after five star and will be an extremely tough game for Bama to win. Things don't get much easier with a trip to LSU, a home game with Texas A&M, and road trips to Missouri and Tennessee as the first five games of the conference slate. The Kentucky game will be televised on ESPN.
Roll Tide and Buckle Up
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