Alabama survives scare, beats Appalachian State 60-59
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama struggled before finally defeating Appalachian State 60-59 on Sunday.
Appalachian State had already won at Virginia Tech and came close to winning in Tuscaloosa but the Crimson Tide outscored the Mountaineers down the stretch and forced Frank Eaves to miss a long, contested shot from the corner with the clock winding down.
Michael Kessens scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Alabama.
Ricky Tarrant and Levi Randolph hit consecutive jumpers to give Alabama a 58-54 lead with 3:34 remaining. After Dustin Clarke scored, Kessens' basket at the 2:34 mark gave Alabama a four-point lead. Clarke answered with a 3-pointer but neither team would score again and Eaves' contested 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining hit the side of the backboard.
''I thought Riley did a good job of contesting the shot and fortunately we were able to win,'' Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. ''I'm certainly proud of our guys for being able to make enough plays, both offensively and defensively, to come out with the win. I thought Appalachian State came in and did a great job right from the jump. I'm proud of the group that we had down the stretch. Defensively, we were able to come up some big stops and big rebounds to close the game out.''
Randolph had 14 points for Alabama (8-3). Tarrant added 11 points and Jimmie Taylor had seven blocks.
Tommy Spagnolo scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Appalachian State (3-6), which lost its fourth straight game. Clarke and Eaves added 13 points apiece.
Kessens scored the first field goal of the second half to tie the contest but the Mountaineers scored seven straight points to make it 36-29 on a 3-point shot by Clarke at the 17:36 mark. Alabama fought back to within one, when Randolph made a 3-pointer with 11:13 left.
Alabama took its first lead since the opening minute of the game at 52-51, when Riley Norris made a layup with 8:09 remaining in the game.
In the first half, Appalachian State jumped out to a 16-7 lead when Griffin Kinney made two free throws. Alabama then went on a 12-4 run to pull within 20-19 on a field goal by Kessens. The Mountaineers stayed a few points in front throughout the remainder of the first half.
Appalachian State, aided by 11 points from Spagnolo and 10 from Eaves, held onto a 29-27 advantage at intermission. Alabama was held to 9-of-28 shooting and had nine turnovers.
The Mountaineers led by as many as nine points in the opening 20 minutes.
On the last play of the game Appalachian State coach Jim Fox said that they ran a play that they had run before.
''I thought he was open,'' Fox added, ''but their guys just closed out.you can't get the shot off because their guys close out so quickly. They made our shot a little more difficult than it was.
''I think Frank (Eaves) wanted the shot and we tried to give it to him. You can't really focus on the last play. You have to focus on the plays that you didn't make. In a one-point game, you don't know which play, in the 40 minutes, which will cost you the game. I'm proud of the way our guys battled.''
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers are now 2-23 all-time against current members of the SEC.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide remained unbeaten at home in seven contests. ... It Kessens' career-high in points and rebounds at Alabama after spending last season at Longwood University. It was also his first double-double at Alabama.
Appalachian State: visits Arkansas State on Jan. 3.
Alabama: hosts UCLA on Dec. 28.