A tale of two halves: Alabama falls to Texas A&M at the buzzer


Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Jumping off one foot and floating forward through the air, Texas A&M’s TJ Starks released the three-point shot that silenced Coleman Coliseum and shocked Alabama.

The shot, falling through the net as time expired, sealed an 81-80 comeback victory for the Aggies and delivered Alabama its fifth loss of the season.

“I felt like I contested it well,” said John Petty Jr., who defended the shot. “It was a one-legged runner fade away from the goal three-pointer off the glass, so I mean, I don’t think there’s really too much more you can do about that. If you make it, I really say good shot because there’s really nothing you can do about it.”

The magnitude of the loss was multiplied by the Crimson Tide’s dominance through much of the contest. Fueled by the hot shooting of Petty, who shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in the first half, Alabama carried an 11-point lead into the break.

Texas A&M chipped away at the Crimson Tide’s lead in the second half, pulling within striking distance numerous times. Petty’s hot shooting continued as he initially fended off the Aggies comeback with timely baskets. But poor shooting overall eventually caught up to Alabama when Texas A&M captured its first lead of the game with just under eight minutes left. From that point on, the game transformed into a back and forth affair.

Alabama appeared to have the upper hand when Kira Lewis stepped to the free throw line with 3.4 seconds left on the clock. The Crimson Tide held a one-point lead. The freshman point guard missed his first free throw before sinking the second. Then, Starks delivered the Aggies a stunning victory.

Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M wasn’t the first time Alabama has watched a double-digit lead vanish this season. The Crimson Tide lost a 22-point halftime lead to Georgia State on December 4. Once again, it was a tail of two halves for Alabama.

“We just, again, came out of the locker room not as focused as we needed to be,” coach Avery Johnson said.

After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, Alabama went cold in the second, only converting 33.3 percent of its shots. The Crimson Tide made just three of their first 16 shots after the break.

“Just struggled. Just couldn’t get the ball in the basket. We just weren’t ready to shoot,” Johnson said.

Petty led the way for Alabama’s offense, finishing with a season-high 22 points. Kira Lewis and Donta Hall both chipped in 14 points. Hall garnered his 200th career block while also recording his seventh double-double of the season.

Alabama (10-5, 1-2 SEC) will now embark on a two-game road stretch, starting in Columbia, Missouri and a meeting with Missouri (9-4, 0-1 SEC) on Jan. 16.

“The SEC is tough,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to have short term memory and see how you can bounce back as soon as you can.”