TUSCALOOSA. | The University of Alabama men’s basketball team started the 2017-18 Southeastern Conference season with plenty of flair — and a dash of history.
The Crimson Tide led from the opening tip and dominated No. 5 Texas A&M 79-57, Alabama’s first win over an AP Top 5 opponent since the 2004 team defeated No. 1 Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Seattle.
Four different players scored in double figures as Alabama (9-4) reversed a dismal performance against Texas a week ago with its best effort of the season.
“If you want an honest answer, my first thought tonight was ‘Where was this team in Birmingham?’ That’s what went through my mind,” said Alabama coach Avery Johnson. “That’s what irritates me. But the players came back and worked in training-camp style in practice all week. Overall, I thought we were very competitive, engaged, thought we weathered their run and were poised at the end.”
Texas A&M came as close as 37-32 early in the second half but Alabama pushed that lead back to 13 points (51-38) on a Donta Hall dunk with 15:23 to play and maintained a comfortable advantage from there.
Hall had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and added six rebounds and two blocked shots against the imposing Aggie front line.
“If you were recruiting a big kid and talked to him about player development, Donta would be Exhibit One that you’d show him,” Johnson said.
Freshman John Petty led Alabama with 18 points, including five 3-pointers. Collin Sexton and Dazon Ingram each scored 16 points for UA.
“We’ve got a team full of guys that can score,” Petty said. “It’s all a team thing. We had some great practices after Texas. We knew we could play better than that.”
Tyler Davis and Robert Williams led Texas A&M (11-2, 0-1 SEC) with 14 points each. The Aggies, missing two starters in Ardon Gilder and DJ Hogg, made just two of 21 3-point attempts.
“If we looked like a dysfunctional team, that’s because we were,” said Aggie coach Billy Kennedy. “I’ve got to do a better job of coaching them in that situation.”
THE CRIMSON Tide was down one player and will be in that situation for the rest of the season as senior forward Riley Norris will have season-ending hip surgery on Friday.
Norris originally suffered the injury to his left hip in July. He missed the first three games in November, returned to the lineup against UT Arlington on Nov. 21 and has played in all nine games since.
“We are extremely disappointed to lose Riley for the remainder of the season,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “He’s been fighting through this injury since July and we’ve had success with a conservative treatment and rehab program. However, he’s had increased pain as the season has gone on. Our athletic training staff and medical team discussed all options with him and his family and we felt it was in his best interest to proceed with surgery now.”
“We exhausted every option but the pain just became unbearable,” Johnson said. “I really feel for Riley. This is an emotional one for me and our team.”
Norris has played in 110 games throughout his career, making 57 starts. As the only fourth-year senior on this year’s team, Norris is averaging 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per contest.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.