Alabama earns much needed top-25 win

No frustration. No lack of urgency. Just blue-collar basketball.

On a night Alabama retired Wendell Hudson’s No. 20 jersey, everything went right for the Crimson Tide against No. 25 LSU.

After playing only seven minutes against Auburn, junior forward Herbert Jones played 29 minutes for the Crimson Tide. Essentially playing one-handed, having a cast on his left wrist, Jones was the difference-maker. He finished with a career-high 17 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, six points, three assists and two blocks.

He was taking charges. Diving for loose balls. Contesting shots. Giving maximum effort. But despite his one-handed heroism, the Tigers rallied from an 18-point deficit to just one. Alabama, once again, was blowing a double-digit lead.

But, Alabama’s storybook night would not be taken from them.

Junior forward Alex Reese hit the three-pointer in the final minute of a game, Jones hit two free-throws, with just his right hand. For a team that struggles down the stretch, it was on the verge of pulling off the upset. With 1:37 left, LSU’s Skylar Mays hit a three-pointer that cut it to 79-78.

That was the closest the Tigers would get.

The Crimson Tide pulled off the 88-82 win over the Tigers and gave themselves a second quality win for its NCAA tournament résumé. Alabama (14-11, 6-6 SEC) now has wins over LSU and Auburn. Entering the game, the Tigers were No. 27 in the NET rankings. After losing, it is crucial for Alabama that LSU (18-7, 9-3 SEC) remains in the top-30, allowing the win to count as a quadrant one win.

“It was a big win. We’ve been saying we needed another Quad 1 win and we got it,” head coach Nate Oats’ said in a press release. “I thought our energy out of the gate was really good.”

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with a game-high 27 points–18 of which came in the second half– and four assists, while freshman guard Jaden Shackelford added 26 points and a game-high five three-pointers. Junior forward Galin Smith had his best game of the year, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.

The Crimson Tide finished with 13 made shots from beyond the arc to bring its season total to 269, which broke the program record of 259 three-pointers made, set back in 2015-16 across 33 games. This year it took only 25 games.

LSU outrebounded Alabama 44-42; however, the Crimson Tide had the 23-17 advantage in the second half. And after shooting 59 three-balls against Auburn, Alabama found much success playing aggressively in the paint getting the whistle, finishing 19-of-26 for 73.1 percent from the foul line.

After finishing 1-1 this week, Alabama will be favored in five of its last six games, except against Mississippi State, respectively. With an opportunity to finish the season with 20 wins, the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament hopes remain alive. 18 wins heading into the SEC Tournament may be enough. 19 wins may be the sweet spot. But, 20 wins might seal the deal.

Alabama will be back in action Feb. 19 at Coleman Coliseum against Texas A&M (12-12, 6-6 SEC). Tipoff is slated for 6:00 CT.

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