STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The elements for a blowout — a shorthanded team on the road, foul trouble on two key players were in place. Instead, Alabama managed to play Penn State to the final possession with a chance to tie or win the game.
The problem was, no potentially heroic shot ever came.
Despite inbounding the ball in the frontcourt with 5.8 second to play, the Crimson Tide’s final possession fizzled and Penn State survived with a 73-71 victory on Saturday.
Alabama had cut the Penn State lead to 72-71 on a Javian Davis layup with 1:19 to play and had a chance to take the lead with 32 seconds to go, but could not convert a lob pass to Alex Reese. Melvin Watkins was fouled with 12.5 seconds to play and made one free throw. The Crimson Tide brought the ball across mid-court and called its final time out with 5.8 seconds remaining.
“We were looking to get Kira (Lewis) off a ball screen going downhill,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “We were going to try to get a two, not a three because teams really play to stop the 3-pointer in that situation.
“They denied Kira and the ball went into Reese. If I’d had another time out, I’d have called it That’s not on Reese. That’s on me for not having us in a better play.”
Reese was unable to get open and tossed the ball wildly at the goal but it went out of bounds, sealing the Nittany Lion win.
Alabama led by as many as nine points in the second half despite getting less production than usual from Lewis and John Petty, who was saddled with foul trouble for most of the game and fouled out prior to the final UA possession. However, Penn State star Lamar Stephens — who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five blocks — led a comeback that put the Nittany Lions in a position to weather the final Alabama effort.
“We really played hard but we ran out of energy in the last eight minutes,” Oats said. “When Herb (Jones), Beetle (Bolden) and Reese haven’t practiced all week, that makes it tough for them to have anything left at the end.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but if we get an effort like we did today, we can still win a lot of ball games.”
Bolden came off the bench to lead Alabama with 15 points. Reese added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Crimson Tide, now 4-5.
UA will be back in action on Wednesday, playing Samford at Birmingham’s Legacy Arena.