Sluggish Bama Roused Enough For Close Win

Last Friday Alabama Coach Anthony Grant kept a couple of players out of the game, saying they needed a rest. On Sunday, it looked like a day of rest for all Crimson Tide players, even though they were on the court at Coleman Coliseum.

A sluggish Alabama – poked by freshman forward Riley Norris – managed to overcome a couple of big deficits and survive a potential nightmare by holding on for a 60-59 win over Appalachian State.

The visiting Mountaineers had a last second shot at victory, but a long three-point try missed badly and Bama grabbed the rebound as time expired. Appalachian State had already made five three-point shots in the second half

The Crimson Tide improved to 8-3, while Appalachian State fell to 3-6.

Alabama returns to action a week from today with the marquee non-conference game of the season when Bama hosts UCLA. Tipoff Sunday, Dec. 28, will be at 5:30 p.m. CST. The game will be the first for the Bruins since Kentucky took an 83-44 win in Chicago Saturday.

Michael Kessens led the Tide with 17 points on 7-9 field goal shooting and 3-3 free throws and also added 10 rebounds (5 offensive, 5 defensive) and 3 steals and a blocked shot.

Although he didn’t have the same statistics line, Norris played a huge role in Bama’s comeback, including giving the Tide its first lead since it was 2-0 to start the game. Norris was good on 3-5 field goals for 6 points and had 8 rebounds and a steal.

Levi Randolph scored in double figures with 14 points, but was only 5-13 from the field. He led Bama with 5 assists, but also had two costly turnovers – one with just over 27 seconds to play and Alabama nursing a one-point lead. That gave the visitors a last shot at victory.

The winning points came with Kessens making a short jumper on an assist from Ricky Tarrant. Tarrant scored 11 points, but missed the front end of three one-and-one free throws, including one with a minute to play and Bama up by just one point.

Tommy Spagnola led Appalachian State with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Mountaineers got 13 points each from Dustin Clarke and Frank Eaves.

It was a bad night for shooting. Alabama hit 23-56 field goals for 41.1 per cent, Appalachian State 24-60 for 40 per cent. The Tide made 4-17 three-pointers (23.5 per cent), the Mountaineers 7-28 for 25 per cent. Bama made 10-16 free throws, 62.5 per cent, Appalachian State just 4-5 (80 per cent).

Both teams had 38 rebounds.

Bama had a slight edge on points in the paint, 22-20, on points off turnovers, 18-16, and on fast break points, 8-6, but the visitors had a 13-9 advantage on second chance points.

Appalachian’s biggest lead was 9 points in the first half and the Mountaineers also had an 8-point lead in the second half.

Alabama had one lead in the first half: 2-0 on a pair of Levi Randolph free throws 25 seconds into the game. The Mountaineers led by as many as nine points in the first half, but at intermission it was only Appalachian State 29, Bama 27.

Appalachian State had hit only 38.7 per cent from the field, but the Tide had only nine field goals and had shot 32.1 per cent.

TIDE NOTES: Starters for Alabama were forward Mike Kessens, center Jimmie Taylor, point guard Ricky Tarrant, and senior guards Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph.

Cooper and Tarrant had been held out of last Friday night’s win over Stillman because, Grant said, they needed rest.

Appalachian State had some big wins coming into Tuscaloosa despite a losing record. The Mountaineers had defeated Virginia Tech and Jacksonville.

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