Four years ago, the fans in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge would have had hopes of seeing Corban Collins, then an LSU freshman basketball player, score 24 points. They probably weren’t so pleased at Collins’ success Saturday as he is now a graduate player at Alabama. He got his 24 points, keying the Crimson Tide to an 81-66 win over the Tigers.
Collins had the best game of his brief Alabama career Saturday with his game-high 24 points on 7-13 shooting – all 7 field goals coming from behind the three-point line.
The game was far from what the final score of a Bama 15-point win. LSU led much of the way in what was at best a back-and-forth game with 10 ties and 11 lead changes until just under 8 minutes to play. The Tigers held a 54-51 lead. From that point forward, beginning with a Dazon Ingram free throw and followed by back-to-back treys by Collins and then back-to-back three-pointers by Riley Norris, Bama outscored LSU 30-12.
Collins said his return to the PMAC since transferring from LSU at the end of the 2013 season “was a great feeling. It’s an even better feeling to come back here and be leaving with a victory.”
The win improved Alabama to 10-6 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU fell to 9-7 and 1-4.
Alabama will return to action Wednesday against another set of Tigers, the Missouri version. Tipoff in Coleman Coliseum is at 6 p.m. CST and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
Collins, who eventually earned his degree at Moorehead State and entered Alabama as a graduate transfer, said, “I want to say that I have the utmost respect for this university (LSU), and the program, and the coaches here. They gave me my college start. They took a chance on me.”
Alabama trailed the Tigers by 33-28 at the half. In the second 20 minutes, Bama scored 53 points and held LS to 33.
In addition to Collins scoring 24 points, Norris was good on 6-12 field goals (3-7 treys) and finished with 20 points and Donga Hall hit 6-7 from the field and had 13 points. Bama’s leading scorer coming into the game, Braxton Key, did not have a good shooting game (2-12 and 7 points) but was Bama’s top rebounder with 9.
“Basically, it was a tale of two games for us and a tale of two halves,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said. “In our last game (vs. Florida), we threw the ball all over the gym and had 18 turnovers. Our opponents capitalized on our turnovers. We couldn’t get our defense set. When we get our defense set, we feel like we’re a pretty good defensive team. Tonight, especially in the second half, we did a good job of taking care of the ball. We got our defense set and executed.”
The Tide asserted itself in the opening minutes of the second half, going on a 7-1 run to tie the score at 34-34. LSU held a four-point lead, 48-44, at the midway point of the second half, before Alabama responded with a 7-0 run to take a three-point lead at 51-48 with 9:06 remaining in the contest. LSU quickly responded with a 6-0 run of its own to take a 54-51 lead with 7:53 left to play, before the Tide went on the impressive 30-12 game-ending run.
After shooting just 28 percent in the opening half, Alabama connected on 16-of-31 (51.6 percent) shots over the final 20 minutes to finish the game at 39.7 percent from the field. The Tide hit 10-of-28 (35.7 percent) of its shots from beyond the arc, led by Collins’ seven. The Tide also owned a 41-37 rebounding edge and had 15 assists against 10 turnovers.
Johnson may have been deadpanning when he said, “We played one of our better second halves.”
He was serious, though, when he said, “I’m really proud of our team. We took quality shots in the second half unlike in the first half. We rebounded in the second half unlike the first half. We got some easy baskets in the second half. It was a great team win.”
Key fouled out of the game and Ingram and Jimmie Taylor were both playing with four fouls in the second half. Johnson said, “I think part of coaching is trying to sense momentum even if you’re down. I think that’s coaching. It’s not just Xs and Os. I wanted to just keep those guys in there. We told them to play smart, but we also mixed up our defense a little bit to try and hide them on defense. That seemed to work out for us.”
LSU, led by Duop Reath with 12 points and 9 rebounds, outscored Alabama in the paint by 34-20, but the Tide outscored LSU on points off turnovers. Bama scored 25 points off 18 LSU miscues, the Tigers 8 points off Alabama’s 10 turnovers. The Tide also had 13 second chance points to 6 for LSU and Bama’s bench scored 33 points, LSU’s 24.