Alabama gave up a couple of three-point shots to Arkansas State in the final moments of the Rocket City Classic in Huntsville, but at that point the shots were meaningless because the Crimson Tide had held the Red Wolves without a three-pointer in the first half and – more importantly – because Alabama had been dominant down the stretch before a sellout crowd at the Von Braun Center.
Jimmie Taylor scored a season-high 12 points in leading Alabama to a 67-52 win over Arkansas State.
Taylor was one of three Alabama players to finish in double figures, as freshmen Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram registered 11 and 10 points, respectively. Junior Riley Norris also had a notable performance, as native of nearby Albertville led Alabama in rebounds with nine while scoring eight points.
Alabama improved to 6-5, while Arkansas State is now 9-3.
Alabama will have an eight-day Christmas break before returning to action on Thursday, Dec. 29, as it plays Coleman Coliseum for just the second time this month when it hosts Stetson at 7 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.
The Tide played a men’s basketball game in Huntsville for just the second time in program history with the only other game coming on Dec. 18, 1999, when Alabama captured a 75-51 victory over Chattanooga.
“What a tremendous crowd we had tonight,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. “I would like to thank the city Huntsville for the great support we’ve had this week during our time here. We’ve done some things in the community and it was great to see the fans show up tonight. I think that really gave our guys some energy.
“As far as the game goes, I thought we did a great job defensively and we were very competitive tonight,” Johnson said. “This is the first game we’ve had since I’ve been here that a team didn’t make a three on us in the first half. We gave up a couple of long rebounds but I really liked our flow defensively. Offensively, you saw us trying to run a little more. We simplified a couple of things, so we have something to build on. That’s a really good team that’s been scoring a lot of points. I’m really proud of our guys tonight.”
In a slow start, the teams were tied at 11 midway through the first half. A 7-2 run by the Red Wolves put Bama behind at 18-3 with 8:20 remaining in the first half, but the Tide responded with an 18-4 run and held a 31-26 lead at intermission.
Ingram drilled a three-pointer to start the second half, but Arkansas State responded by scoring six straight points to trim Alabama’s lead to two points, 34-32. The Tide pulled away with a 20-4 run that lasted 8:09, which turned a 45-40 Alabama advantage into a commanding 65-44 lead with just under two minutes left as the Tide cruised to a 15-point win.
Alabama shot 44 percent from the field, while hitting 31 percent of its shots from behind the three-point line. The Tide dominated between the blocks, as it scored 40 points in the paint compared to 26 by the Red Wolves.
Defensively, Alabama swatted nine shots and collected six steals, while also winning the battle of the boards, 43-40. More importantly, the Tide held Arkansas State’s Devin Carter, who came in as one of the top three-point shooters in the country, to 5-of-16 from the floor and 0-of-6 from beyond the arc – the first time in his career he has failed to make a trey in a game.