Alabama Basketball Fights Off Kansas State, 77-74
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama men's basketball held off Kansas State 77-74 to win its game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday evening.
A failure to produce offensive rebounds and a lackluster start by the Crimson Tide allowed the Wildcats to keep within striking distance for the majority of the game. Alabama lost the offensive rebound game 22-3, extending Kansas State's possessions and giving them many extra opportunities to score.
"Good to get a close win," Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. "I think that's the first time we've won when it's been under five points so we need to be in some close games—know that we can win 'em, take care of the ball, make free throws late, get stops late—so proud of the guys for that."
The Crimson Tide came out of the gate with lackluster energy, making fundamental mistakes and turning the ball over 10 times. Sophomore guard Kira Lewis, Jr. picked up some of the slack, scoring 13 points in the first half. However, Alabama was unable to jump ahead and remained close behind.
At the half, Alabama trailed Kansas State 37-36.
The next 10 minutes of the game were a different story. Alabama took control of the game from the time they stepped foot on the court, executing defense and forcing turnovers. With 15:37 left on the clock, the Crimson Tide started a 14-0 run that would give it a 16-point advantage.
Kansas State had no plans of being put away, though. With 11:36 left to go, the Wildcats went on a 15-2 run to cut the Crimson Tide lead to three. The run was powered by seven points from senior forward Makol Mawien, who plagued Alabama with 10 points and seven rebounds in the second half.
With just 24 seconds remaining, the Crimson Tide led by only three at 72-69. The combined free-throw shooting of Lewis and junior guard Herbert Jones gave Alabama five points in the final seconds to seal the deal for the Crimson Tide.
Lewis registered six points following the 15-2 run for Kansas State, scoring two of the final free throws to hold off the Wildcats.
"When a team makes a run like that you just figure out ways as a point guard to try to stop the bleed," Lewis said. "Get a bucket and try to get a stop and try to get more buckets so I just try to take it upon myself to make the right read and get a basket for us."
Alabama finally dealt the last blow, and the Crimson Tide defeated the Wildcats 77-74.
"A lot of stuff to learn from the game, though," Oats said. "You know with our offensive rebounding that we gave up. Disastrous. Really could have cost us the game so we got to get that cleaned up. Our turnovers are still too high."
Lewis led the team in points with 26 and also tied freshman guard Jaden Shackelford for team-lead in rebounds with seven.
In total, all five of Alabama's starters scored in double-digits, including Lewis, Shackelford with 11, Jones with 10, junior forward Alex Reese with 11 and junior guard John Petty, Jr. with 11.
For the Wildcats, junior guard Cartier Diarra led the team with 17 points. However, the star of the game for Kansas State was Mawien, who registered a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Mawien was a problem for Alabama under the net all game on both sides of the court,
Alabama improves to 12-7 with the win and is 4-2 in the SEC. Kansas State falls to 8-11 with the loss and is 1-5 in the Big 12.
The Crimson Tide has now won four-consecutive games and eight of its last 10. Next up, however, Alabama faces a huge road test as it travels to Louisiana to take on LSU Wednesday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN 2).
"We'll take the win right now and hopefully learn and the guys will be mature enough to know that we've got to fix a lot of things even though we won," Oats said. "Proud of the guys for a win but we got a lot to get fixed here before Wednesday."