What did we learn today?: Hard work is not always rewarded. In terms of raw effort and attention to detail, this may have been Alabama’s best game of the season, and it came against a team that may be in the Top 25 next week. The Crimson Tide was solid in halfcourt defense, forcing PSU out of the paint and rushing the Nittany Lions into deep, early shots that got them out of rhythm. Bama held its own on the glass despite being undersized and committed only 10 turnovers, a season low. There were positive things to build on for the future. But eventually those positive moments have to add up to wins in order to mean anything, and right now the Tide has no wins against teams from multi-bid conferences. For a team that can charitably be described as psychologically fragile, another couple of baskets in Happy Valley could have been the breakthrough this team badly needed.
What were the biggest concerns?: Kira Lewis had his worst game of the year, and maybe his life. Never mind that he had another four-turnover game when the rest of his teammates were able to reverse that trend. Lewis was a miserable 3-for-18 from the floor, and was missing from all over. He missed seven of his eight 3-point attempts, but it was his futile drives to the basket that too often resulted in an easy Lions block and not enough ball movement. He and Herbert Jones, who inexplicably remains the No. 2 ball-handling option, combined to miss 24 shots as Alabama hit just 35.1 percent from the floor. It might seem harsh to put so much blame on an 18-year-old just three semesters removed from high school ball, but if Lewis expects a future in the NBA, he’s going to have to play tougher in the games where more is expected from him. In five games away from Coleman Coliseum, Lewis is shooting under 39 percent.
What was the best part of the game?: Unlikely heroes coming off the bench to carry the team when starters were sputtering. Beetle Bolden looked the healthiest he has all season, scoring a team-high 15 points and staying on the floor for 26 minutes, even when Penn State got more physical in the second half. And with John Petty mired in foul trouble much of the day, freshman Jaylen Forbes showed sparks of improvement, coming up with five points and four rebounds in just nine minutes.
Who was the star?: Alex Reese went 3-for-8 from 3-point range, which also helped draw Penn State’s defenders away from the rim to open things up for his teammates. Reese finished with 12 points and seven rebounds while playing a season-high 29 minutes.
What’s next?: After a one-year hiatus, Alabama makes its traditional December trip to Birmingham’s Legacy Arena, this time to face the Samford Bulldogs. Wednesday’s tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. Central and will be streamed online by ESPN+.
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