The 3-point baskets that had been scarce for the Alabama basketball team in its last two games returned from the wilderness on Saturday afternoon — and just in time.
The Crimson Tide hit 13 3-pointers and held off a Missouri rally to take an 88-74 win over the Tigers and extend its perfect home court-record in 2020 league play to three.
“We had talked about being ready to play after a big win (over Auburn) in the last game,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “I thought we were a little sluggish in the first few minutes but (Alex) Reese made some 3’s that got us started. Then in the second half, our defensive intensity was better and that has been an issue for us.”
Alabama needed the outside shooting to counter a record-setting foul shooting performance by Missouri, which made 31 of 31 free throws, an SEC record for single-game accuracy.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone shoot like that,” Oats said. “I don’t know if anyone has done that in the NCAA this year. It showed that they were really focused so this was a big win for us.”
The foul situation not only boosted the Missouri offense, it also put an Alabama team that goes only nine players deep in a precarious roster situation in the minutes that decided the game. Beetle Bolden, who sustained a back contusion in the first half, came back to relieve Kira Lewis but Bolden drew his fifth foul with 9:06 to play and Lewis already sitting out with four fouls. Missouri’s Xavier Pinson made the two free throws, cutting the Crimson Tide lead to 69-64.
Oats opted to use Herb Jones at the point before he also picked up his fourth foul and the two ensuing free throws made it a one-possession game, 71-68, with 7:34 to go.
Alabama held its poise, though, with John Petty hitting a crucial 3-pointer at the 4-minute mark that pushed the UA lead to 80-72. The Crimson Tide — which made 21 of its 23 second-half free throws — was able to ice the game.
“The way they played really tested our depth,” Oats said. “We had to let Herb run the point for a few minutes. But Kira came back and we got some stops we needed.”
All five Alabama starters scored in double figures, led by Petty’s 20 points. Reese and Jaden Shackelford each had 17, while Lewis added 10.
Jones had a double-double, scoring 11 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and adding three assists and three steals. Oats said Jones won the team’s “hard hat” award for the game “and it wasn’t close.”
Dru Smith led Missouri (9-8, 1-4 SEC) with 18 points.
Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC) returns to SEC action on Wednesday night at Vanderbilt.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt
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