The Alabama basketball team struggled to close out in the final minutes of each half, falling to Baylor 73-68 in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday in Waco, Texas.

Alabama took a 59-56 lead on Riley Norris’ 3-point basket with 5:36 to play and was tied 61-61 on a Donta Hall layup with 3:33 remaining. But the Bears then went on an 8-2 run to pull away.

The Crimson Tide scored just one basket in the final three minutes as its record fell to 12-7 overall.

“We didn’t play our best basketball,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “We got inside their zone and tried to make plays at the rim but we just couldn’t get the ball in the basket.

“I don’t like to see us get outrebounded and we did. We had loose balls on the floor that Baylor came up with.

“We just didn’t have that second gear today.”

The Crimson Tide led by as five points in the early going but did not score a basket in the final 3:06 of the first half and trailed at intermission, 36-30. UA then went on a 7-0 run to start the second half to regain the lead and the two teams battled on even terms until the UA fade in the final five minutes.

“We’re right there in this game and then turn the ball over and don’t make the right play at the right time,” Johnson said.

The Bears outrebounded Alabama 35-31 and turned 16 offensive rebounds into 18 second-half points.

Norris came off the bench to lead Alabama with 16 points, making all six of his shots from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Kira Lewis and Tevin Mack added 15 points. However, sophomore John Petty, who had scored 22.5 points per game in Alabama’s previous two contests, scored just two points and was 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

Mississippi State transfer Mario Kegler led Baylor (13-6) with 17 points and seven rebounds. Makai Mason added 13 points for the Bears.

Alabama will return to SEC action Tuesday night, hosting No. 22 Mississippi State.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.