Alabama Topples Giant Killer Stephen F. Austin, 78-68

Alabama Athletics

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  A solid night on defense and five double-digit offensive performances lead Alabama basketball to a 78-68 win over Stephen F. Austin in Coleman Coliseum on Friday night.

Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford led the balanced scoring with 17 points, followed by junior forward Alex Reese and sophomore guard Kira Lewis, Jr., with 15 points apiece, and freshman forward Javian Davis had 11.

Junior guard John Petty, Jr., finished with 14 points, going 4-for-10 from 3-point range. While Petty had a somewhat sluggish start to the season, his trip with Alabama to the Bahamas seems to have done wonders for his shooting, and his offensive surge has continued since the Battle 4 Atlantis holiday tournament. 

"I'm feeling good," Petty said. "I think it's just the work I put in. The shootarounds after practice, before games so I think that's just what's building my confidence and these guys telling me 'you know you're a shooter. It don't matter if you miss. It don't matter how many times you miss, just keep shooting', so I think just my confidence level is high right now."

Reese's personal season-high 15-point performance is also something to note as he wasn't able to practice all week due to a foot injury.

Otherwise the game was a defensive slugfest. Both teams combined for 39 turnovers, with the Crimson Tide having one more at 20 on the night. Alabama also lost by one in the defensive rebounding game, registering 20 opposed to Stephen F. Austin's 21.

"I thought it was a hard-played game," said Alabama coach Nate Oats, who picked up career win No. 100. "Proud of our effort.

"It was a good quality win. I mean, that's a team that plays with a lot of confidence. They're one of the hardest-playing teams we've seen."

The Lumberjacks upset No. 1 Duke 85-83 just 10 days ago, which brought a larger crowd than usual to Coleman Coliseum.

The first half started out slow for both offenses. Alabama even turned the ball over in the first 10 seconds, resulting in a layup for the Lumberjacks' Roti Ware.

Alabama promptly reset and got more scrappy as the half progressed. The Crimson Tide forced 10 turnovers before the break, directly resulting in 11 points.

"I thought that Nate and his bunch did a great job," Lumberjacks head coach Kyle Keller said. "Really just the best defense we've probably faced this year. I thought that their help  we just saw bodies all night."

Alabama entered the locker room up 32-31.

In the second half, the Crimson Tide finally found some offensive tempo, opening with a 15-2 run to take command of the game.

The Crimson Tide earned 10 more points off of nine more turnovers. Eight blocks by Alabama, led by junior forward Galin Smith with three, kept the momentum in its favor.

Stepen F. Austin had four double-digit players of its own, led by junior guard Cameron Johnson with 18. He also had six rebounds and went 6-for-9 from the free throw line.

"The turnovers were a problem," said Oats, as Alabama is still averaging 17.6 per game. "But I thought about the middle 30 minutes of that game after we settled down. After the first five minutes all the way up to the very end  we did a pretty good job not turning it over. I don't have the exact numbers on that, but I guess it'd be we had quite a few in the first five and quite a few in the last three to four minutes.

"Outside of that, we did a decent job."

With the win, Alabama (4-4) improved to .500, while Stephen F. Austin was handed just its second loss of the season (7-2). 

Up next, Alabama travels to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions on Dec. 14. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT (Big Ten Network).

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