Men’s basketball erases 12-point deficit, beats Georgia in overtime


CW / Hannah Saad

Alexander Plant | @aplant6, Copy Editor

ATHENS, Ga. — Ball screen after ball screen, Kira Lewis Jr. blew to the basket for easy layups. The sophomore guard scored a career-high 37 points on the road against Georgia on Saturday, propelling Alabama men’s basketball to a 105-102 road win.

In the final seconds of regulation, Lewis continued to try and ice the game for the Crimson Tide, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t let this game fall out of their hands until overtime.

Georgia freshman Sahvir Wheeler, who also had a career-high in points with 24, said that Georgia struggled with Alabama’s pick and rolls during the game.

“That’s a lot of ball screens they set,” Wheeler said. “Credit to their coaching staff, really good job using [Lewis]. He’s a good player.”

Georgia phenom and potential No. 1 draft pick, freshman Anthony Edwards, also gave credit to Lewis and the Alabama coaching staff for using the pick and roll to attack the paint and Georgia’s big forwards.

“He just iso and try to blow past our big dude. He’s isoing everybody, man,” Edwards said. “I mean, Coach [Tom Crean] was just spreading the floor and we couldn’t really help cause they shoot the ball really well, like everybody on the floor can shoot from the 5 to the 1, so they spread the floor really well.”

Edwards, who just came off a career-high 32 points in a loss to Florida, is still recovering from the flu he had during the week. He struggled to find his shot throughout the game, shooting 5 of 17 from the field, including going 0 for 6 from three. His 14 points were his second-fewest in his last 11 games, leading to audible disappointment from the Stegeman Coliseum crowd.

“[I’m] just coming off the flu, I mean I still kinda got it… I wasn’t feeling it cause I’m sick,” Edwards said. “I just knew I wasn’t going to have any lift in my jump shot.”

However, Edwards’ presence was felt on the rest of the court. During the first half, he was all over Alabama on defense, deflecting passes, stripping the ball away and recording three steals. He finished with 12 rebounds.

Alabama led 45-41 after a back-and-forth first half, but the Bulldogs went on a tear to open the second, scoring 24 points in just over five minutes to lead 65-53. Alabama then silenced the crowd with a 15-2 run of its own to regain the lead, 68-67.

From that point on Alabama tried to push its lead further ahead, but the Bulldogs stayed hot on the trail. During the last two minutes of regulation and overtime, the game became a free-throw contest. Clutch free throws from Lewis and junior guard John Petty Jr., who finished with 21 points, put the Crimson Tide over the top.

The key for both teams’ success was getting to the paint and the free-throw line. Alabama finished with 56 points in the paint and 21 made free throws, while Georgia finished with 58 points in the paint and 17 made free throws.

Big plays came from the big men. Georgia forward Rayshaun Hammonds came up with huge buckets late in the game and finished with 20 points. Alabama forwards Alex Reese, Javian Davis and Galin Smith had a combined 26 points but opened the floor with solid screens to allow Lewis the chance to drive to the basket.

After a three-game losing streak, coach Nate Oats said that the team’s focuses coming into the game were free-throw shooting, turnovers and rebounding. The Crimson Tide shot 21 of 30 (70%) from the free-throw line, forced and committed 14 turnovers and lost the rebounding battle 42-37.

“We needed it bad after giving away two home ones we felt like we should’ve had,” Oats said. “Proud of our guys, [we] showed a lot of fight.”