ATHENS, Ga. | After a week of running out of gas at the finish line, the University of Alabama basketball team found something extra in the tank on Saturday. It may have involved a mixture of gasoline, hair spray, hard apple cider and several overtime free throws but it was just enough to give Alabama a 105-102 SEC win over the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Crimson Tide made nine of 12 free throws over the final 2:20 of overtime — its entire scoring output in that decisive stretch — which was just enough to hold off the Bulldogs and snap a three-game SEC losing streak.
“We needed it bad after losing two home games that we thought we should have had,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I’m proud of our guys. They showed a lot of fight, a lot of character.”
Alabama sophomore Kira Lewis scored a career-high 37 points. He missed two free throws in the final 44 seconds of regulation, one of which was the front end of a one-and-one, but came back to score five points in overtime, including two free throws with 2:20 remaining in overtime that gave UA a lead it never relinquished.
Lewis also committed an offensive foul that negated Alabama’s chance at a shot at the end of regulation but Georgia missed a long 3-point try at the buzzer.
“After I missed the two free throws, I closed my eyes, counted to three and we were in overtime and those were in the past,” Lewis said. “We had to go out and play.”
Oats noted that Alabama would not have been in a strong situation without Lewis’ 37 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
“It helps having probably the fastest guy in the country in Kira,” Oats said. “We wanted to get Kira in those situations, coming off screens or in the open floor. They are a little like us in that they don’t have a rim protector to clean those things up so he was able to get inside.”
The Crimson Tide trailed by 12 points after a sluggish start to the second half as Georgia turned a 45-41 halftime deficit to a 65-53 lead with 14 minutes remaining. Instead of wilting, UA responded with a 15-2 run triggered by Lewis and Beetle Bolden, taking the lead at 68-67 with 10:46 to play. From there, neither team led by more than four points until the conclusion.
Georgia did have a desperation shot at tying the game and forcing a second overtime but a 3-point attempt by Bulldog freshman star Anthony Edwards — who was in the infirmary on Friday and was a game-time decision on Saturday — missed off the front of the rim.
“I felt weak and I knew I wasn’t going to get any lift on my shot,” said Edwards, who was 0-for-6 on 3-pointers. “But we needed a 3-pointer and there wasn’t any time, so I shot it.”
Edwards did finish with a double-double, scoring 14 points and securing 12 rebounds for Georgia, which is now 13-11 and 2-8 in the SEC.
Five Alabama players finished in double figures. In addition to Lewis’ 37 points, Petty scored 21, including six in overtime. Javian Davis — who had full body cramps after the game — had 13 points and eight rebounds. Bolden scored 11 points and freshman Jaden Shackelford added 10 for UA.
The Crimson Tide (13-10, 5-5 SEC) will stay on the road for its next game, playing at Auburn on Wednesday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter, @cecilhurt