Alabama limited Penn State to less than 39 percent shooting from the field as the Crimson Tide wrapped up the home portion of the nonconference schedule with a 73-64 victory at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: Avery Johnson is going to mix and match lineups as he sees fit and doesn’t particularly care what you, me, the Twitter peanut gallery or the guy in the 45th row thinks about it. At a time of year where many coaches are tightening up rotations and doling out bench minutes with a medicine dropper, Johnson continues to play 10 players. And the amount of time each sees is hardly set in stone. Riley Norris had only played 23 combined minutes in his first two games back, but logged 18 against the Nittany Lions, including the last 11:31 of the first half as Johnson looked for an infusion of energy. By contrast Alex Reese, who had been producing while seeing steady time as the seventh man in the rotation, got just five minutes, and much of that was spent on the floor with Norris, Dazon Ingram, Avery Johnson Jr. and Galin Smith in a no-starters lineup that struggled offensively. As confounding as it felt at times, the Tide shot 52.8 percent from the field and only turned it over 12 times, despite no player going more than 29 minutes.
What was the best part of the game?: It seems like Bama is good for one perfect stretch of basketball each game, and against Penn State it came in the form of a 24-0 run over seven minutes to erase a 23-9 deficit. Following those two outbursts, both teams played on roughly even terms over the final 22 minutes, which is more than the Tide has accomplished at other times this month after building a big lead. John Petty had the final six points of the run and finished with 13 points and five rebounds in the win.
Who was the star?: The Lions are a frontcourt team with a stingy defense, but they had no answers for Donta Hall, who cranked out another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting and threw in three blocks for good measure. The senior from Luverne is rounding into form as a full-fledged nightmare for 13 other SEC staffs assembling scouting reports.
What were the biggest concerns?: Kira Lewis had his first truly bad game since an early-season clunker versus Northeastern. The freshman point guard missed his first five shots and looked tentative going to the basket, with a handful of floaters denting the underside of the rim. But he did rally for seven points down the stretch when the Crimson Tide needed to close out the game and finished with four assists and a steal against just one turnover.
What’s next?: Alabama’s final tuneup before conference play comes in Nacogdoches, Texas, home of Stephen F. Austin. The Tide and the Lumberjacks tip off Sunday Dec. 30 at 5 p.m. Central on ESPNU.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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