Arizona basketball's comeback attempt goes south against Alabama
For the second game in a row, Arizona trailed by double digits in the first half, but this time it was unable to complete the comeback, and Alabama held on to win 76-73 in Tuscaloosa on Sunday afternoon.
Justin Coleman’s game-tying 3-point attempt from half court fell short as time expired and the Wildcats dropped to 7-3 on the season.
Alabama built a 19-point first-half lead, however Arizona rallied in the second half and actually took a 57-56 lead with just over nine minutes remaining. However, missed shots, lapses on defense and not being able to get rebounds plagued the ‘Cats the rest of the way.
With the game tied at 64-64 and 3:10 left in the game, Alabama’s Donta Hall got back-to-back easy baskets, a dunk and a layup in transition to put the Crimson Tide up by four.
Arizona answered with two scores of its own from Chase Jeter, who had a career-high 19 points on 9-16 shooting, and trailed 70-68 with 1:19 to play. Soon after, however, was when perhaps the biggest defensive breakdown took place.
Kira Lewis Jr. missed a 3 for 'Bama, but Herbert Jones grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, allowing the Crimson Tide another possession. Coming out of an Arizona timeout, 'Bama ran a set play for Lewis, and miscommunication between Jeter and Coleman allowed Lewis to drain a wide open, step-back 3, giving the Tide a five-point lead.
Brandon Randolph drained a 3 of his own with seven seconds left to give Arizona one last breath, but the Tide hit free throws and sent the ‘Cats home with their first true road loss of the year.
The game was also a homecoming for two Arizona players, Coleman and Dylan Smith, both Alabama natives. Neither had a particularly strong showing as Coleman – a Samford and Alabama transfer – scored eight points on 2-5 shooting with four fouls and five turnovers, and Smith had zero points on three shots attempts.
Randolph and Brandon Williams got hot offensively in the second half during Arizona’s comeback spurt, each scoring 10 points and hitting a pair of 3s. Even so, the duo only combined for one shot attempt over the last three minutes of the game.
While the calendar only reads early December, the loss is still damaging to Arizona’s NCAA Tournament chances, as a road win against an SEC school would have boosted the ‘Cats resume.
The matchup in Tuscaloosa completes the home-and-home scheduling the two schools had, with Arizona winning last year in Tucson.
The Wildcats now have six days off before hosting Baylor from the Big-12 next Saturday at 9 p.m. MST.
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