Stuart McNair

Alabama basketball needs overtime to beat Jax State

Alabama basketball puts three men in double figures to get tough overtime win over Jacksonville State.

While not overly impressive or dominating, Alabama’s basketball team got a win it sorely needed Tuesday night over in-state foe Jacksonville State. Bama 67, Gamecocks 59 was not a thing of beauty, but not all wins are. In fact, this one took an extra five minute period to accomplish.

Said Tide Coach Avery Johnson, “Tough night for us throughout the game. I’m really proud of how our guys persevered… when the game was at crucial points in the second half. We needed some experience playing an overtime game.  You can’t simulate that in practice.

“We don’t make excuses. We just play. We could have dropped our heads. This is really a life skill exhibition. Not everything is going to go great in life. Jacksonville State came in to win the game, and they played hard.”

Bama won the extra period 12-4 to finally put away the Gamecocks. Alabama placed three men in double digits while another narrowly missed joining that group. Arthur Edwards led the Tide with 16 points, while Jimmie Taylor scored 13 and grabbed six boards to go with five blocks. Riley Norris had a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds to with two blocks, while Mike Kessens scored nine and claimed five boards.

Bama had a shot to win in regulation. Two at the line, actually. The game clock said 32.7 seconds to go. The scoreboard said Alabama 55, Jacksonville State 55. Justin Coleman missed a three for the Tide, but the Gamecocks travelled after grabbing the rebound. With 7.5 seconds left, Bama took a full time out to draw up a play that would win the game or send it to extra time.

The horn blew. The huddles broke on each bench. Coleman took the inbounds pass, fed Obasohan, and the senior drove the lane, missed, but was fouled with 2.3 seconds left. He missed the first free throw. He missed the second. Jax State got the board, and took its final time out with 1.6 left. Kessens intercepted a long pass to send the game to overtime.

The visitors drew first blood in the extra period, but Taylor flushed a dunk to tie it again. With under three minutes left, Edwards was fouled getting a board. He made both free throws for a 59-57 lead for Bama. After a pair of defensive stops, Bama took time out after a Norris offensive board with 1:41 left in the first overtime, needing points to go up two scores.

Obasohan drove and scored for a four-point lead with 80 seconds left. Another defensive stop forced the Gamecocks to foul, and with under a minute left, Coleman stepped to the line and swished both for a 63-57 lead.

JaQuail Townser turned it over, and Coleman rinsed and repeated at the line with 39.7 ticks left. In the final 28 seconds, Kessens made a pair at the line, the Gamecocks missed a 3-ball, and the visitors decided not to foul again.

Coming off a tough loss to Oregon in Birmingham eight days ago, a win of any type was just what the doctor ordered.

“It’s always a great feeling to get a ‘w.’ We bounced back from a tough loss, and it feels great,” said graduate transfer guard Edwards.

As the game started, Kessens scored the first five points for the Tide on a layup and a rare 3-pointer. Neither team was dominant in the first stanza. At the 14:12 mark, Bama led by four points, but the Tide could not pull away. At intermission, the Coleman Coliseum scoreboard showed the Tide down 29-27.

The first half featured two ties and seven lead changes.  Jacksonville out-rebounded Bama 20-13 in the first 20 minutes.

 In the second half, the Crimson Tide turned up the heat. Bama went up 31-30 on a Norris leaner with 16:30 to go. Taylor scored on a pass from Coleman, and then drove for an “and one,” and the junior converted for a 9-0 run and 36-30 lead.  When the Gamecocks (4-11) scored again, Bama was up 40-32 on the strength of a 13-0 run.

The Tide built its lead to 13 at the 11:13 mark on a pair of Kessens free throws. Not going away, Jax State cut the margin down to 51-50, and Johnson called time out with 3:13 Ieft. 

Needing a bucket, Taylor fired from the lane, missed, and was fouled. He made one of two for a two-point lead. After Jax State tied the game, the teams traded misses, and Norris drew a foul fighting for a rebound. The sophomore went to the line and split a pair for a 53-52 lead with 105 seconds left.

A defensive stop by Bama was followed by a drawn shooting foul by Edwards, who waited for sweat to be mopped off the floor before calmly draining a pair with 1:02 to go, putting Bama up three.  Jax State Coach James Green (a former Bama assistant) called time with 58.2 seconds left, down 55-52.

Jeremy Watson, who played at Homewood High and Shelton State, missed a shot heavily defended by Taylor, but the ball went out off Norris with four ticks left on the shot clock and 35.7 on the game clock. After a time out, to review the play, the ball stayed with the Gamecocks.

Townser then drained a long trey to tie the game at 55 with 32.7 left.

Green said, “I give my team a lot of credit. We had the right pace in that first half. We made some shots in that last seven minutes of regulation. That’s normally how you win a game like this if you’re an underdog coming in.

“We’re probably one of the best four-win teams in the country.”

Junior forward Shannon Hale missed his third straight game, but did suit up. Johnson said, “He will play a few minutes on Saturday. He will not start. He will practice the whole time (Wednesday).

“He’s a guy who can play passing lanes for us, and offensively, you have to guard him. He gives us a more extensive offensive package.”

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Attendance was announced at 11,417 (tickets sold). The Tide was out-boarded by the smaller visitors 41-37. Bama made 28 of its 43 free throws. Jax State shot but eight and made six.

Alabama (8-3) hosts Norfolk State Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. The SEC Network will televise.


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