TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — What looked like a blowout early on turned into a nail-bitter as the University of Alabama men’s basketball team held on to defeat resilient Rhode Island on Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum, 68-64.
With numerous NBA scouts in attendance Wednesday night, Collin Sexton connected on an alley-oop and faked out a defender out of his shoes, but after after being sidelined following a hit to the face, the Crimson Tide were eventually led by their big men.
Junior forward Donta Hall delivered 13 points and 14 rebounds, while sophomore forward/center Daniel Giddens came through with 12 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Sophomore guard Dazon Ingram also produced a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Sexton scored 11.
Alabama enjoyed a 50-31 edge in rebounds and shot 39 (making 24) free throws, compared to URI’s 11 (seven).
“Daniel Giddens was special tonight in a lot of ways with his physicality and post presence,” Auburn coach Avery Johnson said. “I am proud of our team’s effort. We didn’t have this kind of effort in our last home game.”
- The Crimson Tide continues to be resilient
Although Alabama is getting close to being full strength for the first time this season, with sophomore Braxton Key (knee) considered a game-time decision for its trip to Arizona on Saturday, it played a lot of the game without Sexton.
The freshman guard was struck by Rhode Island reserve guard Fatts Russell with 6 minutes, 40 seconds to go in the first half. He stayed on the floor for a while and then went straight to the locker room with his right eye covered in a towel.
Johnson said that there was some blood and Sexton’s eye was initially closed. The coach didn’t put him back into the game until Sexton was medically cleared, but he’ll be checked again Thursday morning.
“We needed every ounce of his energy tonight,” Johnson said.
With stitches over his right eye, Sexton lobbied his coach to come back and returned after Rhode Island closed to 52-49 with 5:14 remaining. The Rams were able to tie the game but never led.
- Alabama is still turning the ball over too much.
The Crimson Tide had a season-high 24 turnovers, including 14 in the first half, leading to 26 points for the Rams.
It was something Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said the Rams targeted, with Alabama being such a young team and looking to get significantly better with Key’s return.
Hall, freshman guard John Petty and Ingram committed 5 apiece.
“It was just careless turnovers,” Petty said. “We were being aggressive.”
- Alabama opened a tough stretch with a big win.
Alabama (7-2) will face Arizona, Mercer, Texas and Texas A&M all before Christmas, the last being its SEC opener.
“Hard-nosed East Coast team that has taken on the personality of its coach,” Johnson said about Rhode Island. “I really enjoy watching them play.
“This team was a couple of minutes from making the Sweet 16.”
Rhode Island knocked off Seton Hall in Brooklyn in the NIT Season Tip-Off, and defeated Providence at home. The Rams (5-3) were playing their last game without E.C. Matthews, who has been out since October, but it was still a quality win for Alabama, which was coming off a disappointing home loss to UCF that dropped it out of the AP Top 25.
“Our student section was rocking tonight,” Johnson said. “Their energy had an effect on the entire crowd tonight, so thank you. We let you down the last game, all of our fans.”