Alabama Avoids Scare, Defeats Appalachian State 60-59
It was supposed to be one of those lazy Sunday blowouts. It ended up almost costing the Crimson Tide men's basketball team any chance at an NCAA Tournament bid. Alabama trailed for most of the game, but was able to avoid a stunning upset and beat Appalachian State 60-59.
After going up 2-0, Alabama trailed by as much as 9 points during the first half against the Mountaineers, who came into Coleman Coliseum with just a 3-5 record on the season. At halftime, Appalachian State had a 29-27 lead over the Tide. Alabama shot just 32.1% in the half. Alabama would not regain the lead until 8:09 left in the second half when a layup by Riley Norris gave the Tide a 52-51 lead. They would not trail again, but the final 1:56 was not fun for the Tide. After a three-point shot by Appalachian State's Dustin Clarke cut the lead to 1, Alabama missed several opportunities to increase their lead, including missing free throws and several short shots and turning the ball over on a five-second violation. With the Mountaineers inbounding with just 3.5 seconds left, a final shot went off the backboard only to be rebounded by the Tide's Michael Kessens, ending the game.
Kessens was the star for Alabama in the game. He had a career-high 17 points, and added 10 rebounds to record his 1st career double-double. Levi Randolph was the 2nd-leading scorer for the Tide with 14 points, putting him 5 away from 1,000 career points. He would be the 47th Alabama men's player to accomplish the feat. While Jimmie Taylor was unable to score, he had 7 blocks and was dominant defensively for the Tide.
The game continued a trend of offensive struggles for the Tide. After averaging over 70 points per game earlier in the season, the Tide have failed to score 70 points in four straight games. However, Alabama still got the win, and at 8-3 are still very much alive for a possible berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Tide return to action next Sunday to host the UCLA Bruins in a crucial game for both teams. After hostong North Florida on January 2nd, Alabama begins SEC play against Texas A&M on the 6th at home.