Alabama fends off Arizona after losing another big lead


Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

It was Déjà vu for Alabama. Almost.

With only a few minutes left in its game against Arizona, the Crimson Tide found itself in a familiar position. For the second straight game, Alabama let a big lead vanish in the second half.

Last week, it was a 22-point first-half advantage against Georgia State. This week, it was a 19-point lead against the Wildcats.

Except this time, Alabama didn’t let victory slip away, fending off Arizona in the final minutes to claim a 76-73 win.

“It just shows that we can hang in there with each other and don’t give up on each other,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We didn’t give up on our players, we didn’t give up on ourselves. It just shows that you can come back and handle adversity and handle one of the most disappointing losses in our players playing careers and our coaches coaching careers.”

Clutch plays by Donta Hall and Kira Lewis Jr. helped the Crimson Tide stave off the surging Wildcats down the stretch.

With 2:46 to play, Lewis drove and had his layup tipped by Arizona’s Chase Jeter. The ball bounced off the backboard and into the hands of a soaring Hall, who slammed it home to give Alabama the lead. Hall extended the Crimson Tide’s lead on the next play after John Petty Jr. intercepted Arizona’s pass and got it to him in transition for a layup.

“That offensive rebound-dunk that Donta got, that was perfect timing,” Johnson said.

Hall gave Alabama a lead late, but it was Lewis’ shot a couple minutes later that sealed the victory. With 13 seconds left, the freshman point guard drilled a wide-open three-pointer to put Alabama up by five. He then made two free throws with three seconds left to ice the game.

“He’s a killer,” forward Tevin Mack said of Lewis.

Lewis led Alabama with 20 points, but three other players finished in double-digits. Alex Reese contributed 15 points off the bench, Donta Hall finished with 13 and Tevin Mack added 12 in his second-straight start.

Alabama shot the ball well from beyond the arc, knocking down 42.1 percent of its threes. The Crimson Tide also out-rebounded Arizona 40-38 and has not been out-rebounded in a game this season.

Reese credits Alabama’s ability to close out Arizona to a few days of tough practice following the loss to Georgia State.

“We were able to bounce back,” Reese said. “We had three days of hard practice and worked hard, got their game plan, so to be able to execute that was good for us.”