“You’ve got to give our team credit,” Crimson Tide Coach Avery Johnson said. “That was a complete team victory. When we can get a minimum of three of our guys in double figures, we are a much better team. It was another outstanding defensive effort by our team just like yesterday, but the difference between the two games was our offense.”
The game featured eight ties and nine lead changes, and was not decided until the final 10 seconds.
Alabama (3-2) started off well when it took an early lead, as the Shockers failed to score for four minutes beginning at the 18:49 mark. The Tide then fell behind with a series of three turnovers in only a minute and a half. The Shockers outrebounded the Tide 23-12 with an 11-1 edge on offensive glass in the first half, but the teams stayed close with Wichita State only able to build a six-point lead, 24-18, late in the opening half.
Alabama finished the half strong by going on a 14-6 run over the last 3:41 to take a 32-30 lead at intermission. The Tide used free throws to close the gap, with nine of its last 11 points coming at the line. Alabama made 71 percent of their free throws in the half.
Wichita State put together an 11-5 run to start the second half and took a 41-39 lead at the 16:13 mark. Alabama had three turnovers in 90 seconds during the run. The Tide then went 1-of-7 shooting over the next six minutes to fall behind 48-45. That would be the largest lead by Wichita State, as Alabama responded with a 9-1 run to grab a 52-49 lead. However, the Shockers answered with back-to-back threes for a 55-52 lead at the nine-minute mark.
The Tide would again respond, this time with back-to-back threes from Shannon Hale and Riley Norris to retake the lead, 58-55, and never trailed again.
With Alabama holding a 61-55 lead with 3:07 left to play, the contest was stopped for approximately 10 minutes when Wichita State’s Anton Grady went down following a collision with Tide freshman Dazon Ingram. He would be placed on a stretcher and taken off the court and taken to a nearby hospital.
“Our prayers go out to Anton Grady,” Johnson said. “He had a tough fall during the game, I’m not exactly sure what happened, I haven’t seen the replay. But our prayers go out to him and his family. In the midst of winning this game, most of our focus – even through the celebration of this win – is on his health. That could have been any one of my players out there in that situation, it could have been any of our children. So, we’re really praying for him. And we hope whatever his situation is that he would have a speedy recovery.”
Once play resumed, Wichita State rallied and pulled within one, 61-60, with just over a minute to play. Hale then hit 1-of-2 free throws and, after a defensive stop, Norris sealed the game with a pair of makes from the charity stripe to give his team the victory.
Hale finished with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Norris added 12 and Ingram scored 11. Ingram was the Tide’s leading rebounder with eight boards, while Arthur Edwards added five. The Tide finished shooting a season-best 76 percent at the free throw line.
Ron Baker finished with 15 points for Wichita State, and Markis McDuffie added 14 off the bench. McDuffie and Bush Wamukota led the Shockers with seven rebounds.