Alabama Secures a Victory Over Murray State, 78-72
The Alabama men's basketball team battled hard down the stretch to outlast Murray State, 78-72, Monday night in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide (5-1) knocked down eight consecutive free throws over the final 25 seconds to hold off the Racers (3-1).
Freshman Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with another 20-point performance – his third of the year – and sophomore John Petty added 16 of his own. The Crimson Tide continued to improve its free throw percentage by shooting nearly 77 percent while knocking down 23-of-30 attempts.
Murray State was led by preseason OVC Player of the Year Ja Morant who knocked down 38 points on 16-of-29 shooting from the floor.
“We weren’t very sharp in terms of taking care of the basketball,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “But overall, I’m proud of the way our guys fought through adversity to finish another game against a really good NCAA tournament-caliber team. I tried to explain to our team that this team was going come out and try to knock us out early, and they did that at both the start of the first half and the start of the second half. They have a very high-level player that can win games by himself. The rest of the guys understand their roles and are going to be scrappy so we knew there wouldn’t be any surrender. But overall, I’m not pleased with the ball security and the turnovers. I like how we made our free throws down the stretch. We’ll take the win we’re at home and we just got to get back to work.”
Alabama battled back from an early deficit with an 8-0 run over a 2:48 stretch to take its first lead, 15-13, with 10:31 left in the first half. The Tide continued to roll with a 19-5 run over a five-minute stretch paired with dominating defense to take its largest lead of the game, 37-24, with 2:02 left in the first half. Alabama would go on to lead by 10 at halftime, 39-29.
Murray State came out firing on all cylinders in the second half by scoring eight straight points to cut the UA lead to two. The lead was shared by both team’s multiple times over the course of the second half, until Alabama rattled off a lighting fast 7-0 run in under a minute to regain the lead for good, 58-52, with 8:11 left in the half. With consistent free throw shooting down the stretch Alabama was able to hold off Murray State for the six-point victory.
The Crimson Tide had a strong showing off the bench, as the Alabama reserves scored 29, compared to Murray State’s 11. Junior Dazon Ingram registered a solid nine points going 7-of-8 from the free throw line and sophomore Alex Reese also knocked down three three-pointers adding nine points of his own off the bench.
The Crimson Tide finished the game with 21 turnovers which helped Murray State finish the game with a 31-20 edge in points off turnovers, but Alabama countered with a 40-32 edge on the boards. Alabama was able to force 10 turnovers off Morant, including forcing a crucial steal late in the game to preserve the win.
Alabama will next travel to UCF this Thursday to face the Knights for the Tide's first true road game of the year. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPNU.