After an almost 20-point drubbing against Stanford, the University of Alabama men's basketball team bounced back in a massive way versus UNLV on Tuesday night in its second game of the Maui Invitational.
Thanks to a season-high outing from senior guard John Petty Jr. and four other double-digit scorers, the Crimson Tide came away victorious, 86-74, over the Runnin' Rebels inside Harrah's Cheerokee Center in Asheville, N.C.
"I thought our guys played hard," Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said postgame. "Our big thing was just that we needed to play harder. Some of our guys are figuring out how hard they have to play to get a win in a Division 1 basketball game. You can't afford to relax...
"It was nice to finally make some shots. A lot of good efforts out of our guys tonight."
Petty, who finished with 22 points and went 6-of-10 from three-point range, came out on fire, making his first two treys, propelling Alabama to a 11-3 lead with 17:32 left in the first half.
However, UNLV proceeded to go on a 20-5 run, taking a seven-point advantage mid-way through the opening period.
Over the last 10 minutes of the first half, both teams would trade baskets back and forth until the Crimson Tide went on a 12-6 run to end the period, tying the game up at 38 heading into intermission.
Combined, Alabama and UNLV made 14 three-pointers in the first 20 minutes alone.
Right out of the break, Petty and sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford would hit back-to-back triples and take a 44-38 advantage, and the Crimson Tide would never give up the lead again from that point forward.
"We stressed closing the first half and opening the second half," Oats said. "Those were big. Last four, first four. We went 18-6 over that span and it was much better than last night."
The Runnin' Rebels were able to tie it up at 53 with a three-pointer from Caleb Grill, who had a game-high 27 points and made seven three-pointers, but after that, Alabama kept UNLV at arms-length, going on multiple runs throughout the second half that extended its lead to double-digits throughout much of the final 20 minutes.
Joining Petty in double-figures was sophomore guard Jahvon Quinerly (19), senior wing Herb Jones (16), Shackelford (13), and freshman guard Josh Primo (11).
Offensively, this was the Crimson Tide that fans remember from last season and not the one that showed up against the Cardinal on Monday as Alabama shot 48.3 percent from the field on 29-of-60 shooting, while making 37.5 percent from deep (15-40).
It had only shot 23 percent from beyond-the-arc in its first two games against Jacksonville State and Stanford.
Forward Jordan Bruner was the Crimson Tide's leading rebounder with seven. He also added four assists, two blocks, and two steals.
"It felt great to finally come out and get into a rhythm like we are capable of," Petty said. "Last night, we got together as a team, and asked each other to look in the mirror and ask, 'How do we want this season to go?' As one of the older guys on the team, I felt everyone responded well to that tonight."
Along with Grill, UNLV had three others in double-figures including junior guard Bryce Hamilton who added 17 points, seven boards, and four assists.
Crimson Tide junior guard Keon Ellis, who was dealing with a non-COVID related illness, missed tonight's game against the Runnin' Rebels.
"He has tested negative on all the COVID stuff," Oats said. "He wasn't feeling very well. We wanted to keep him away from the team so he is isolating in room back at the hotel. We're hoping it's just a 24-hour thing."
Alabama will wrap up its time at the Maui Invitational in the fifth-place game against Providence on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m (CT), which will be broadcasted on ESPN2.