Penn State 73, Alabama 71: Cold shooting casts pall on improved effort

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built a nine-point lead but went cold down the stretch and couldn’t run an effective play in the final minute of a 73-71 loss at State.

What did we learn today?: Hard work is not always rewarded. In terms of raw effort and attention to detail, this may have been ’s best game of the season, and it came against a team that may be in the next week. 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. 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 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?: 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 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. looked the healthiest he has all season, scoring a team-high 15 points and staying on the floor for 26 minutes, even when State got more physical in the second half. And with 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?: went 3-for-8 from 3-point range, which also helped draw 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, makes its traditional December trip to Birmingham’s Legacy Arena, this time to face the Bulldogs. Wednesday’s tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. Central and will be streamed online by ESPN+.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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