Alabama 73, Penn State 64: Monster run ensures a happy holiday for Crimson Tide

Dec 21, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Donta Hall (0) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Crimson forward Donta Hall (0) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Penn State at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY

Dec. 21, 2018

limited Penn State to less than 39 percent shooting from the field as the Crimson 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 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 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 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 has accomplished at other times this month after building a big lead. 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 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?: 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 needed to close out the game and finished with four assists and a steal against just one turnover.

What’s next?: ’s final tuneup before conference play comes in Nacogdoches, Texas, home of Stephen F. Austin. The and the Lumberjacks tip off Sunday Dec. 30 at 5 p.m. Central on ESPNU.

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