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Alabama 76, Arizona 73: Kira Lewis seizes spotlight in must-win game

Dec 9, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Lawson Schaffer (24) reacts from the bench after a play against Arizona Wildcats during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Crimson Tide guard Lawson Schaffer (24) reacts from the bench after a play against Wildcats during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: TODAY

By Chris DePew
Staff
Dec. 9, 2018

blew its second massive home lead of the week, but this time the Crimson Tide was resilient enough to withstand the blow and pull off its best win of the season, a 76-73 against Arizona.

What did we learn today?: can get it done against major conference competition. His fourth 3-pointer of the game with under 13 seconds left gave vital breathing room in what had been a one-possession game and his two free throws with 3.6 seconds left (after snagging a shaky inbounds pass) closed out the scoring and forced the Wildcats into a fruitless game-ending heave from beyond half court. Despite a second-half sequence where Lewis seemed to alternate brilliant plays with classic freshman mistakes, the point guard from Meridianville had a game-high 20 points, his fourth game with 20 or more in a career that is just nine games old.

What was the best part of the game?: stepping up at a critical point to reverse momentum. After building a 19-point advantage in the first half, found itself in a 64-64 tie with 3:05 left. Hall was electric coming out of the timeout, first slamming home a putback of a Lewis miss, then taking off from halfcourt on the next possession and deftly dribbling around a Wildcat defender on his way to the rim for two more points. The Crimson Tide never trailed after that sequence and Hall finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, including a 7-for-9 showing at the foul line while his teammates were a putrid 9-for-19.

Who was the star?: He has yet to start a game this season, but sophomore may be the Tide’s most polished player so far. His 15 points and 55 percent shooting are what grab attention first, but it is his willingness to be more physical (eight rebounds), his awareness and intelligence on the court (two steals) and creativity in the half court offense (three assists) that separate him from the one-dimensional player that got lost at times in last year’s heralded freshman class. He played 27 minutes against Arizona, and it is hard to think of reasons he shouldn’t be logging 25 minutes or more each night.

What were the biggest concerns?: John Petty lost his starting job, and didn’t find his shooting touch on the trip to the bench. Petty actually wound up playing a -high 32 minutes when Dazon Ingram missed the second half with back spasms, but went just 1-for-8 from the field and is now mired in a 5-for-24 slump. At least he was able to contribute elsewhere with six rebounds and four assists, which is more than can be said for Herbert Jones. The sophomore from Greensboro went scoreless with three turnovers, posting a negative efficiency score for the second consecutive game. His only offensive threat is driving to the basket, and that can be neutralized by sending him to the line, where his shooting percentage is 47.4 and sinking fast. Whatever he brings to ’s isn’t enough to paper over the ways he is handicapping the offense.

What’s next?: Another lengthy break for finals and graduation, followed by the annual trip to Huntsville for the Rocket City Classic. Tipoff against Liberty is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 18. No television or streaming coverage is currently scheduled.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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