KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Given the option of ending its regular season with a bang or a whimper, the University of Alabama men’s basketball team opted for the whimper on Saturday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide scored just one point in the final 4:39 of the game, relinquishing a 16-point second-half lead and losing 59-54 to the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“It was a tough finish for us tonight,” Avery said. “The second half was kind of a microcosm of the season for us. We had too many mistakes, too many turnovers. But give them credit. They made the shots and we had some wide-open threes that we just couldn’t make.”
Alabama had one of its best offensive halves of the season, shooting 63 percent and taking a 36-22 lead at the break. UA pushed that edge to 40-24 with 18:37 to play but managed just 14 points in the remainder of the game.
Tennessee regained the lead at 48-47 with 8:31 remaining but Alabama answered with six straight points.
A crucial turn came with UA leading 53-48 with under four minutes remaining. Crimson Tide point guard Dazon Ingram was leading a 2-for-1 fast break but turned the ball over, leading a scurry to the other end with Tennessee’s Lew Evans hitting a critical 3-pointer to cut the UA lead to 53-51. Alabama missed two potential game-tying shots and Admiral Schofield put UT up for good with a 3-pointer at the 1:48 mark.
“They average making six 3-pointers a year and they made seven in the first half,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “But we hung in there and had it going there at the end.”
Freshman Grant Williams had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead UT (16-15, 8-10 SEC.)
Riley Norris had 13 points, all in the first half, to lead Alabama in scoring.
The Crimson Tide (17-13, 10-8 SEC) will play as the No. 5 seed on Thursday at approximately 3 p.m. in the SEC Tournament against the winner of Wednesday’s No. 12 vs. No. 13 matchup.
“We understand where we are,” Johnson said. “And based on my evaluation of the SEC, I still think there can be a sleeper team in the SEC Tournament. Maybe if we get back and correct some things, then go to Nashville and play the right way, that team can be us.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.