Where Duke basketball failed, Alabama basketball succeeded on Friday night.
The transitive property in college hoops is a slippery slope with a swamp of bad conclusions at the bottom so no one is making any brash proclamations of prowess for injury-prone Alabama. The Crimson Tide was, however, able to hold off a tough Stephen F. Austin team and take a 78-68 win over the Lumberjacks, who knocked off the Blue Devils a week earlier.
The Crimson Tide (4-4) did so with an iron-man performance from point guard Kira Lewis Jr., who handled the ball for a full 40 minutes against the pressing Lumberjack defense. Lewis was part of an eight-man rotation for UA, which played without guard Beetle Bolden (wrist injury.)
The Crimson Tide also found its 3-point shooting touch after missing nine of its first 3-point attempts. UA finished 11 of 32 from behind the arc.
“It’s a good quality win,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I thought our defense was as good as it has been all year.
“Once we knew Beetle couldn’t play, we told Kira he might have to go 40 (minutes). I think I got him out for 30 seconds — wait, I got him out for six seconds. But after he calmed down five minutes or so into the game, I think he only had one more turnover.”
The first half was played at a frenetic pace. Stephen F. Austin (7-2) committed its seventh team foul at the 12:41 mark of the first half, a boon for Alabama as both teams struggled to score from the floor. A short jump shot by Lewis in the half’s final minute gave the Crimson Tide a 32-31 lead at intermission.
Jaden Shackelford led five Alabama scorers in double figures with 17 points, including 10 of 11 free throws. Alex Reese, who made four crucial 3-pointers had 15 points, as did Lewis. John Petty Jr. also made four three-pointers and scored 14 points.
Cameron Johnson of S.F. Austin led all scorers with 18 points.
“Alabama made an A-plus hire with Nate Oats,” Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller said. “We weren’t very good and they were the reason why. We didn’t turn them over like we normally turn people over. I didn’t have us ready and Alabama did a great job of taking us away from what we don’t want to do.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt
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