Tide loses control down the stretch, falling to No. 13 LSU at home


CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

With 11 minutes left, Alabama held a six-point lead over No. 13 LSU, but porous defense and an inability to hit shots down the stretch prevented the Crimson Tide from cementing the statement victory.

Alabama fell 74-69 to the Tigers, losing a back-and-forth battle and missing out on an opportunity to boost its NCAA tournament resume.

“Our guys showed a lot of heart, especially there when we took the lead in the second half,” coach Avery Johnson said. “Our defense just wasn’t good enough in the second half overall to win the game. We had too many breakdowns.”

“This was a winnable game for us. There are no more moral victories. Not here in especially in my fourth year.”

Poor shooting doomed an Alabama team that played well in most other areas. The Crimson Tide shot just 38 percent from the field, including 31 percent from three. Alabama also made just 13-of-23 free throws.

John Petty Jr. broke out of his recent slump with a 23-point performance to pace Alabama. Donta Hall added another double-double to his already expansive collection, scoring 14 points and snagging 10 rebounds. Hall is first in the SEC with 13 double-doubles. On senior day, Riley Norris chipped in 13 points off the bench. Herbert Jones finished with 11 points.

While four Alabama players scored in the double-digits, the Crimson Tide’s leading scorer, Kira Lewis, was not one of them. The freshman point guard struggled, going 3-of-16 from the field and turning the ball over three times.

“You have to give their defense some credit,” Johnson said. “I saw four guys committed to him on a lot of plays when he was driving. I thought they did a nice job of getting him off the three-point line, especially for step-back threes.”

The Crimson Tide employed a zone in the first half that threw a kink in LSU’s offense game plan. With Donta Hall protecting the middle of the paint, the Tigers were forced the put up shots from the outside, shooting 3-of-11 from beyond the arc.

“When Donta Hall is in there, he just affects so many shots and blocks so many shots,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “We were able to withstand that and I still felt good at halftime.”

Buoyed by its sound defense, Alabama trailed 29-28 at halftime.

But the Crimson Tide switched back to a man defense in the second half, allowing LSU to assert its presence in the paint, where it scored 26 of its 45 second-half points.

The Tigers leading scorer, Tremont Waters, didn’t start the contest after missing the last two games with an illness. He finished with five points, but his replacement in the starting lineup, Javonte Smart, had a 19-point outing

The already raucous crowd in Coleman Coliseum was ignited in the second half when Johnson was handed a technical foul for arguing a call. Propelled by the crowd’s furor, which reached a season-high, the Crimson Tide went on a 12-2 run and grabbed the lead.

“It seemed like, when I got the technical, we went on a 12-2 run or something and they [the fans] were really in the game. The roof was about to come off the building. We needed a little bit of a jolt there.”

The momentum would not hold, however. The Tigers brought the lead back down, then made 9 of their last 11 shots to seal the win.

Just two more regular-season games remain for Alabama to boost its NCAA tournament chances. The Crimson Tide will look to avenge its loss to Auburn earlier this season when the Tigers travel to Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT.