The University of Alabama men’s basketball team started slowly but never grew shorter on Monday night, wearing down the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers in a 74-65 exhibition victory on Monday night.

The outcome was overshadowed by the absence of four Alabama players, three due to injury and a fourth, more notably, due to an NCAA-related issue. UA declared freshman guard Collin Sexton, whose name has been connected with an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption, ineligible and chose to hold him out of the game when it did not receive notice of his reinstatement prior to tipoff.

Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said following the game that Sexton’s status had changed “not in the last 24 hours but in the last eight hours.”

Braxton Key, Riley Norris and ArMond Davis missed the game due to injury. Johnson announced after the game that Key, a sophomore forward and one of the Crimson Tide’s top returning players, would undergo surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee on Tuesday.

The sudden absence of Sexton and Key seemed to hamstring Alabama in the early going.

“It was a big effect to have those guys out, but we just had to play hard,” said Crimson Tide point guard Dazon Ingram. “I learned that we ain’t got no quit in us.”

The Crimson Tide overcame an early 13-point deficit thanks largely to the inside play of sophomore transfer Daniel Giddens, who scored 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots.

“I was a little jittery at first, being back out there after a year,” said Giddens who sat out as a transfer last season. “But I kept competing and things were better.”

“Some of those shots we missed, at our level, those are layups,” UAH coach Lennie Acuff said. “In this game, they got blocked. The kid from Ohio State (Giddens) blocked a couple. That’s the problem we have in these games, their length. In the second half, when they were playing Giddens and (Donta) Hall, Ingram and Petty, they were huge. But I think they learned a lot from playing us and we certainly learned a lot from playing them.”

Alabama took the lead for good when an Ingram jumper with 8:38 remaining gave the Crimson Tide a 50-49 lead. UA was able to pull away slightly by the end despite making just three of 21 3-point shots and 13 of 25 free throws in the game.

Giddens was joined on double figures by freshmen Herb Jones and John Petty who each scored 14 points. Avery Johnson Jr. put up 10. UAH forward Justin Ward led all scorers with 29 points, 24 of those coming in the first half.

The Crimson Tide will open its regular season in Annapolis, Md. against Memphis on Friday night as part of the Veterans Classic. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CT.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.