Lewis ignites Alabama’s offense in win over Appalachian State


CW / Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

It was well into the second half before freshman Kira Lewis Jr. sunk his first career three-pointer against Southern last week. But against Appalachian State on Sunday night, barely a minute had ticked off the clock when Lewis nailed his first trifecta of the night. It wouldn’t be his last.

Lewis asserted himself early and often, scoring 21 points and helping spark Alabama’s offense in an 81-73 win over Appalachian State in Coleman Coliseum.

“We showed a lot of maturity, especially with Kira (Lewis) coming out and having 21 points,” guard John Petty said. “We also showed a lot of maturity at the end of the game, making free throws, getting shots when it counted.”

Even when Lewis’ shot had cooled off in the second half, he found different ways to impact the game. One such tactic was sneaking into the lane to swipe offensive rebounds and lay them back up for points, which he did several times. It was a part of Alabama’s effort to capitalize on second-chance opportunities in the second half. The Crimson Tide racked up 17 second-chance points after the break, compared to the two it managed in the first.

Converting second-chances into points was a key adjustment Alabama made, but it wasn’t the only one the Crimson Tide needed to regain the lead after falling behind by six.

Alabama coach Avery Johnson also elected to go with a smaller lineup, putting what he called “three and half guards.” Those guards were Lewis, Herb Jones, John Petty and Dazon Ingram. Donta Hall was usually the lone big man.

“We were just searching and we said we have a versatile team that we can go to a lot of gears with,” Johnson said. We can play really, really big. We can play medium, and we can play really small. We went to our really small team and that worked out for us.”

The speedier lineup allowed Alabama to space the floor on offense and attack the basket. After missing all of its six attempted three-pointers, the Crimson Tide abandoned outside shots.

With more quickness on the court, Alabama extended and intensified its defense as well. The Crimson Tide guarded Appalachian State full-court and brought more double-teams. The Mountaineers still shot 60 percent from three for the game, but weren’t able to be as efficient.

“It added some quickness to our defense, we changed our defense a little bit,” Johnson said. We gave them some different looks.”

Once Alabama adjusted and regained the lead with about 10 minutes left, there was no looking back.

Hall added 12 points and 12 rebounds for Alabama, while Petty scored 13 and Jones chipped in 10.

Returning from an ankle injury, Ingram snagged eight rebounds in his season debut.