Alabama Basketball Pulls Away in Final Minutes, Defeats Missouri 88-74

Alabama Athletics

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama basketball overcame a perfect 31-for-31 free-throw performance by Missouri on Saturday afternoon to win its second-consecutive game, 88-74.

With just over four minutes left, junior guard John Petty, Jr. drained a 3-pointer from deep that finally sealed the deal for the Crimson Tide. Throughout the game, every time Missouri came within striking distance, Petty seemed to have an answer.

The Crimson Tide had five double-digit performances by its players including a double-double from junior guard Herbert Jones. Jones finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds in his second-consecutive double-double.

"I thought it was a huge win for our guys," Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. "You know we talked to 'em about answering the bell. After a big win at Auburn, kinda human nature to have a letdown possibly but we needed to avoid that. I thought we came out of the gate maybe a tad sluggish but we picked it up there in the first half and then got ourself a lead."

Junior forward Alex Reese opened up the game by scoring the Crimson Tide's first six points. Reese finished the first half with 15 points and four rebounds, contributing heavily to Alabama's success in the first half.

In addition to Reese, freshman guard Jaden Shackelford registered 11 points of his own while Petty acquired nine.

With just under eight minutes left in the first half, graduate-student guard James 'Beetle' Bolden went down on the floor hard after being called for a block on sophomore guard Xavier Pinson. It was later reported that Bolden had suffered a lumbar contusion as well as back spasms and was questionable to return.

Despite the Crimson Tide's surge on offense, the Tigers went a perfect 21-for-21 from the free-throw line in the first half, keeping them within striking distance.

At the half, Alabama led Missouri 47-40.

Soon after the start of the second half, Alabama went on a 7-0 run to increase its lead. Due to frequent fouls that put the Crimson Tide into foul trouble early, Missouri was once again able to keep it close. 

Emerging from the locker room, Bolden came back on the court despite his injury to help his team during its foul trouble. After several minutes, Bolden fouled out with just over nine minutes left in the game. Sophomore guard Kira Lewis, Jr. along with Jones were dangerously close to fouling out with four personal fouls apiece.

With just over six minutes remaining, Alabama led by just three points. However, four-point, five-point, and six-point runs in the final six minutes powered by Jones and his 3-pointer at the four-minute mark, Lewis and junior guard John Petty, Jr. lead to a surge in offense that resulted in the Crimson Tide victory.

"You know [Oats] always just expressed to us, you know, if we play hard everything'll come together," Petty said. "Like shooting, just worry about the blue-collar things that we instill into our system so yeah I feel like playing hard does factor into a lot of shot-making and at the rim finishing."

The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers, 88-74.

Missouri's 31-for-31 from the charity stripe is a new SEC record. The perfect outing is incredibly impressive, but wasn't enough for the the Tigers. Pinson led the Tigers with nine free throws made on nine attempts.

"They were 31-of-31 from the free-throw line and that tells you they were focused and ready to play," Oats said. "And this is a team that when they've been focused—ready to play—smashed Florida. Shoot 31-out-of-31 on the line and we still won by 14 we have to be doing a lot of good things."

Alabama also had a solid day from the free throw line, shooting 35-for-30 for 83 percent from the line.

Regarding team leaders, Petty finished the day with 20 points and six rebounds. Shackelford followed suit with 17 points and three rebounds, with Reese also having 17 points with five rebounds. Jones recorded his double-double, and Lewis finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

For Missouri, the Tigers had four players score in double-digits, led by redshirt-junior guard Dru Smith with 18 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Mark Smith recorded 15 points and four rebounds of his own while Pinson and freshman forward Kobe Brown each registered 11 points, with two and five rebounds respectively.

With the win, the Crimson Tide moves to 10-7 overall and is now 3-2 in the SEC. Alabama is also now 8-3 in its last 11 games.

Missouri drops to 9-8 with the loss and is now 1-4 in the conference.

Next up, Alabama takes a trip to Nashville to face Vanderbilt on Wednesday (8 p.m. CT, SEC Network).

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