It took a career game from sophomore Kira lewis Jr. for Alabama basketball to gain a road, overtime win over the Georgia Bulldogs.
Going into Saturday evening, Alabama basketball had won one close game all season. On Jan. 25 in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide beat Kansas State, 77-74. Among its 10 losses for the season, Alabama basketball lost three of those games by a total of four points. Another loss, against Arkansas, came after the Tide led inside four minutes. The bitterest loss of the season, in double-overtime at Florida, happened after the Tide led by six points with 46 seconds left in regulation.
After losing three-in-a-row, any win on Saturday was going to be big. Winning a close game, on the road – let’s just say, history was not in favor of the Crimson Tide. Kira Lewis Jr. and his teammates shrugged off that history and stubbornly fought to a 105-102 overtime win in Athens.
It is fair to say, the game was a must-win for the Crimson Tide. Now 13-10 and with a NCAA Net Ranking of 44 (going into Saturday night), getting an 11th loss against 12-10, (now 12-11) Georgia would have damaged any NCAA chances.
Five Crimson Tide players scored in double figures, led by Kira’s career-best 37 points. John Petty Jr., despite going only 1-for-5, outside the arc, scored 21 points. Javian Davis scored 13, Beetle Bolden had 11 and Jaden Shackelford added 10 points. Davis did not finish the game, exiting the contest late, due to body cramps.
Georgia out-rebounded the Tide, 42-37. Leading the Tide on the glass were Javian Davis with eight and John Petty with seven boards. The Tide opened the game with three turnovers in its first five possessions but finished the game with just 13, floor mistakes.
After the game, Nate Oats said he had been preaching mental toughness to his team. Reported by Charlie Potter of 247Sports, Oats said,
Our margin for error is real small right now without Herb (Jones). Every little mistake kind of gets magnified, so we’ve got to be really on top of it, especially on the defensive end and with the turnovers.
Lewis, Petty, Davis and others showed toughness against the Bulldogs. Petty made perhaps the best defensive play of the game, deflecting a Georgia pass off the fingertips of a Bulldog. It too full effort from Petty to get to the ball. The Crimson Tide defense was effective holding Anthony Edwards well below his season average. The dribble penetration of Sahvir Wheeler was Georgia’s strongest weapon. Against a Tide man defense, Kira Lewis and Bettle Bolden had trouble with Wheeler. Nate Oats tried a box-and-one to slow down Wheeler and it slowed him enough. Wheeler was Georgia’s leading scorer, with 24 points.
Some scribes have tweeted the Crimson Tide “survived” in Athens. That’s a good word. A better one is Alabama basketball persevered.