The Alabama basketball team improved to 12-7 overall, including 8-1 at home, by defeating Kansas State 77-74 on Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 challenge. K State dropped to 8-11 with the loss. The Tide gutted out their 10th win in their last 13 games despite not playing their best basketball. After a 25 turnover debacle at Vanderbilt on Wednesday the Tide “only” had 16 on Saturday, but got absolutely destroyed on the boards 45-33. The rebound margin included a ridiculous 22-3 discrepancy on the offensive glass. The offensive rebound work allowed Kansas State to attempt 31 more shots than the Tide, and helped hold the home team under their season average.
The Tide started off slowly and trailed for most of the first half, before taking a 34-33 lead with two minutes remaining. As has been their MO this season, they didn't close the half strongly, and trailed 37-36 at the break. Alex Reese hit a three pointer right out of the break, and the Tide took a lead that they kept the rest of the game. When John Petty was called for his third foul, and a subsequent technical foul, (giving him four fouls) the lead was 47-43 with 15:12 left.
With Petty on the bench, Jaden Shackelford took over and scored six straight points to build the lead to 10 points. Kira Lewis and Herbert Jones added baskets, and the lead was stretched to 61-43 at the 12 minute mark. KSU didn't fold, kept pounding the offensive glass for extra shots, and battled their way back into the game. With 6:25 left, the Wildcats drew within 62-61, having outscored the Tide 18-1 over a six minute period. Lewis continued to make plays, but every time it looked as if Bama would take over, the Cats would find an answer. A Reese three bounced around and in as the clock struck 2:50 for a 69-65 lead.
The Cats kept on coming, continually cutting the lead to one possession after seemingly being left for dead. Shackelford hit two free throws with 1:48 left for a 71-67 lead. Petty was fouled with 1:04 left, but missed both freebies, followed by Kansas State returning the favor and missing a pair of their own. Herbert Jones made 1-2 for the charity stripe with 35 seconds left for a 72-67 lead. KSU scored, and Lewis was fouled, hitting both with 22 seconds left, and a 74-69 lead. K State came down and hit a long three, followed by Jones being fouled again. Herbert calmly made both attempts and the scored was 76-72. After another offensive board the Cats scored to make it 74-72 with 2 seconds left. After missing the first, Jones knocked down the second, and a long heave by Kansas State missed the mark and the Tide had held on for the 77-74 victory.
In the first half Bama shot 9-20 from the field, 4-9 from three, and 14-18 from the free throw line. The Cats shot 13-34 in the first period, including 5-11 from deep, and 6-8 from the charity stripe. The Tide improved to 12-23 in the second half, 4-13 from deep, and 13-19 from the free throw line. KSU made only 13-40 from the field in the second half, 5-18 from three, and 6-11 from the line. For the game the Tide finished 21-43 for 49%, 8-22 (36%) from three, and 27-37 (73%) on free throws. K State finished 26-74 (35%), 10-29 (35%) from three, and 12-19 for 63% from the field. Bama finished with 30 rebounds, nine assists, 16 turnovers, eight blocked shots, and nine steals. The Cats had 45 rebounds, 16 assists, 13 turnovers. two blocks, and five steals.
Lewis had a fantastic game against the team coached by Bruce Weber, his coach on the Team USA U 19 team this summer. Weber famously barely used Lewis, playing him only about five minutes a game. Lewis played as if he had something to prove, and scorched his summer coach for 26 points on 8-12 shooting, 2-5 from deep, and 8-8 from the free throw line. The mercurial sophomore added a team-tying high seven rebounds, added three assists, three blocks, and two steals. Lewis was joined in double digits by Shackelford, who had 11 points and seven rebounds, Petty and Reese also had 11 each, and Jones tossed in 10 of his own.
The Tide was out of sorts all night, and would not have won this game without Lewis taking over. Petty was out of sync, and with Javian Davis struggling with a knee injury, (he did gut out five minutes of playing time) the little depth of the team reared its head. Jaylen Forbes saw four minutes of action, so basically seven players divided the minutes. This is two straight games that this team found a way to win despite not playing up to their potential. Only attempting 22 threes in a game is not what Oats wants, but that was over half of the team’s 43 shots. The lack of toughness on the boards would be a killer for hopes going forward, and they need to shore it up quickly as they head to Baton Rouge to take on the conference leading Bayou Bengals on Wednesday night at 6 p.m on ESPN2.
The Tigers are big and strong and will be licking their chops to attack the boards versus the Tide. The team has shown a lot of intestinal fortitude as they have bought into coach Nate Oats style of play. The will need to continue to win all the games they are suppose to, and pull off a surprise or two along the way. Hard to imagine in November, but this group has a very good chance of reaching the NCAA tournament in March. Sporting a 4-2 mark in the SEC, something along the lines of 11-7 or 12-6 should earn the Tide a dance card.
Roll Tide #BallAndOats
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