In a game that probably shouldn’t have come down to a final possession, the Alabama basketball team was in that situation anyway. But like the rest of Tuesday night’s game against Tennessee, it came to nothing.
The Crimson Tide, which led by as many as 15 points in the first half, struggled with fouls and turnovers for most of the second half but did have a final chance that went awry, leading to a 69-68 Tennessee victory.
With 17 seconds to play and UT leading 67-65, Vol guard Jordan Bowden missed a layup and Alabama’s John Petty grabbed the rebound. The Crimson Tide came upcourt and had the ball in the hands of Kira Lewis, but he gave it up and little-used freshman Jaylen Forbes wound up attempting a layup that was blocked by UT’s Yves Pons who grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to seal the win.
“I thought about calling a timeout but with the matchups we had, I was hoping that Kira could get to the basket and score or draw a foul,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “It didn’t happen. It ended up with Jayden and it’s up to him to decide whether to drive or shoot a three.
“Maybe I should have called timeout.”
The loss extended Alabama’s losing streak to three games.
“I can’t put my finger on it,”Oats said. “We come out ready to play. But rebounding, turnovers and fouling are recurring problems for us.
“We needed this one bad. If we plan on having any chance to play in the postseason, we can’t lose every game with Herb (Jones, sidelined by a wrist fracture) out. We’ve had a rash of injuries but we just have to learn to deal with it.”
The game may have slipped from Alabama’s control in the last two minutes of the first half and the first minute of the second half when Tennessee erased a double-digit deficit with a 12-1 run.
Alabama had a 15-point lead and possession following a Tennessee technical foul with 1:50 remaining in the first half but squandered a chance at a substantial halftime lead by allowing the Vols to close with an 8-1 run, cutting the margin to 40-32 at intermission.
UT dominated on the inside in the second half as all three of the Crimson Tide’s available inside players fouled out.
Tennessee senior center John Fulkerson scored a career-high 22 points.
“Early on, we couldn’t get our guards to understand that we needed to get the ball inside,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “The biggest adjustment we made at halftime was that I told our guards that that guy (Fulkerson) better touch it every time.”
Yves Pons added a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Volunteers (13-9, 5-4 SEC).
Alabama (12-10, 4-5 SEC) returns to action on Saturday at Georgia.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt