One reason there are so many large, extravagant hotel-casinos in Las Vegas is because of the human nature of the clientele. One gets down and tries to get back on top by playing harder. That may or may not work on the tables, but it worked for the Alabama basketball team of Coach Avery Johnson in an impressive come-from-behind victory at the MGM Grand Wednesday.
Alabama trailed by nine points with just over five minutes to play and by six points with just under three to play, but the Crimson Tide scored the final 11 points of the game to defeat St. Louis 62-57 in the consolation finals of the Las Vegas Main Event.
Alabama improved to 3-2 with the win, while the Billikens fell to 2-3. Prior to Wednesday, the Crimson Tide had an 0-4 record against St. Louis, albeit in games plays sporadically between 1953 and 1999.
Bama returns to action Tuesday hosting Charleston Southern in Coleman Coliseum. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. CST and be telecast on SEC Network.
Alabama trailed by nine points, 54-45, with 5:17 left to go, forcing a timeout by head coach Avery Johnson. The Tide would come out of the time out by knocking down back-to-back threes by freshman Braxton Key and Nick King which cut the lead to 54-51. After a made free throw and a layup by Saint Louis to extend its lead to 57-51 with 2:51 left, Key answered with another three as the Tide ended on an 11-0 spurt over the two-and-a-half minutes.
Alabama’s defense was the difference down the stretch, forcing six turnovers and holding the Billikens to just 1-for-5 shooting over the final five minutes.
Key hit 6-10 shots from the field, including 3-4 on three-pointers, to lead Alabama with 16 points. The only other Tider in double figures was Dazon Ingram with 10, including making 6-7 free throws. King came off the bench to score 9.
The first half was a stalemate, as it featured six ties and seven lead changes. The Tide trailed by one at 15-14 at the midway point of the first half, before tying the score at 20-20 with 7:28 left on the clock. The contest continued to seesaw late in the half, as a pair of free throws from senior Corban Collins tied the score at 29-29 with 51 seconds remaining. The Billikens went on to hit a free throw before halftime, and Saint Louis took a one point lead at 30-29 going into the locker room.
Key led the Tide offensively scoring seven first half points, while making his first career start at Alabama. The Tide went 11-of-27 from the field in the half, while collecting 14 total rebounds.
Both teams continued to battle back-and-forth in the second half, until Saint Louis used a 9-2 run over 1:52 that turned a 45-43 lead into a 54-45 advantage with 5:56 left, setting up the game’s final minutes and the Tide’s extraordinary comeback.
The contest featured nine ties and 10 lead changes.
Alabama hit 20-47 (42.6 per cent) from thje field, while the Billikens were 19-44 (43.2 per cent). Bama was 7-21 (33.3 per cent) on three-point shots, St. Louis 6-15 (40 per cent). The Tide made 15-19 free throws (78.9 per cent), St. Louis 13-18 (72.2 per cent).
Alabama was out-rebounded by 5, 32-27, but made it up in forced turnovers, 14 for Bama, 19 for the Billikens. Alabama scored 26 points off St. Louis turnovers, while the Billikens got only 6 off Bama miscues.
The Tide continued to get good play from its bench, Alabama reserves out-scoring those of St. Louis by 23-15.