TUSCALOOSA | The Penn State basketball team came in with the reputation as terrors around the basket, but Donta Hall claimed that territory for his own on Friday night.
Hall, Alabama’s senior center, recorded a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds and asserted himself as the Crimson Tide repelled a late Penn State challenge and defeated the Nittany Lions 73-64 on Friday night.
“(Hall) is such an incredible athlete that, when he rolls, you either foul him, which we did, or he dunks it,” Penn State coach Pat Chambers said.
Hall gave a surprising reason for his big week, including a career-high 21 points against Liberty on Tuesday.
“To be honest, I graduated last Saturday and balancing school and basketball, that was tough,” Hall said. “I feel more free out there now.”
After Penn State took a one-point lead with just under nine minutes to play, Hall scored 10 points over the next four minutes. Freshman point guard Kira Lewis added seven points in the final four minutes — his entire output for the game — to seal the Crimson Tide’s third straight win.
“We went to our bench tonight and they really responded,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “This was our best defensive performance from an overall efficiency standpoint. Riley (Norris) had lots of intangibles, things that don’t necessarily show up on stat sheets. Those 18 minutes tonight, that’s winning basketball.
“One of the things I share with Donta is that you’ve got to edit your behavior to where you want to go. We coach him up hard, we challenge him but he has become more of a student of the game.”
Alabama started slowly, falling behind by 14 points, 23-9, midway through the first half. Alabama responded with one of the more remarkable stretches in recent memory, holding the Nittany Lions scoreless over the next eight minutes as part of a 24-0 run that turned a 14-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
Alabama led at intermission, 33-27.
The Crimson Tide pushed that second-half lead to 12 points before Penn State came up with an answering run, outscoring Alabama 19-8 over a four-minute span and taking a 52-51 lead on a Trent Buttrick 3-pointer with 8:53 lead.
The Nittany Lion lead lasted only 14 seconds before Hall responded with a dunk. After one more PSU bucket, the Crimson Tide took a 55-54 lead on a pair of Hall free throws with 7:46 to go and led, albeit narrowly at times, for the rest of the game.
John Petty had 13 points for Alabama and Tevin Mack added 11.
Reserve guard Trent Buttrick came off the bench to lead Penn State (6-6) with 13 points. The Nittany Lions made four of their first five 3-point attempts in the game but made only three of their final 20 shots from behind the line.
Alabama (8-3) will not play again until Dec. 30, when it travels to Stephen F. Austin for a non-conference game.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.