Alabama made 11 3-pointers and shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half to pull out a 78-68 home win against Stephen F. Austin.
What did we learn today?: Balanced scoring can be more than a euphemism for “nobody can score.” Five different Crimson Tide players cracked double digits as the Lumberjacks were kept off balance all night on defense. Alex Reese and John Petty each made four 3-pointers to finish with a combined 29 points. Jaden Shackelford and Javian Davis both feasted at the foul line, going a combined 17-for-21 on free throws. And Kira Lewis overcame another night of questionable ball handling by going 6-for-9 from the field to finish with 15 points. After a rusty start following a week off, the Tide got its home shooting groove back, making 44.7 percent of its overall shots and better than a third of its trey attempts. If the most that comes out of this year is becoming a hot shooting team at Coleman Coliseum, that’s a significant building block for the years to come.
What was the best part of the game?: Shutting down the Lumberjacks was the most impressive defensive effort this season. SFA wanted to score in the paint and score quickly, and didn’t get nearly as much as it wanted from those parts of its game. The ’Jacks were limited to 10 fast break points, less than half their total from their pre-Thanksgiving upset at Duke. They only got 11 second-chance points despite pulling down 15 offensive rebounds and only 36 points in the paint overall. Bama held them to under 40 percent shooting from the floor and allowed just six assists while coming up with 11 steals and eight blocked shots.
Who was the star?: This wasn’t Lewis’ most polished game, but he did a little bit of everything the Tide needed to get back to .500. His 15 points tied Reese and were just behind Shackelford’s team-high total. Lewis also led Bama with six rebounds and came up with four steals, nearly negating his five turnovers. He knows how to make plays, just not yet at the speed Nate Oats’ system demands. When he gets a feel for this tempo, the potential is there for a monster game every night.
What were the biggest concerns?: Once again, watching Alabama try to protect a late lead felt like watching a tractor trailer go down the back side of Lookout Mountain with the brake lines cut. Turnovers, near turnovers, shaky decisions and careless fouls allowed SFA to score 15 points after the final media timeout. The Crimson Tide finished with 20 turnovers, the third time in its last six games it has finished with at least that many. Even in a down year for the SEC, averaging nearly 18 turnovers a game is an excellent way to plow a path towards last place.
What’s next?: Alabama goes back out on the road a week from Saturday against bubble hopefully Penn State. Tipoff from State College will be at 1 p.m. Central on the Big Ten Network.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris