BC-BKC--Alabama-South Carolina,1st Ld-Writethru
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As late as it was in the season, Alabama coach Avery Johnson couldn’t help but worry over his team’s three-game Southeastern Conference losing streak. He also can’t help getting excited how the Crimson Tide have responded the past week.
Kira Lewis Jr. had 17 points including the go-ahead foul shots with 3:34 to play as Alabama lost a double-digit lead before rallying late to beat South Carolina 68-62 on Tuesday night for its second straight win after those losses.
The Crimson Tide (17-11, 8-7 SEC) seemed headed to the bottom of the league after a frustrating stretch of defeats earlier this month. But Johnson said his older team had been through worse — a five-game league losing streak to end the regular season last year — and he wanted to see if they’d get themselves out of it.
“Let’s see if the maturation process has been ignited,” Johnson said. “I’m pleased that we’ve shown some maturity and didn’t turn a three-game losing into a five-game losing streak.”
Alabama has also turned its postseason chances around. The Tide are still in the hunt for the SEC’s fourth seed, which would bring a double bye before starting play at the league tournament.
“We knew there was going to be some adversity this season and we knew we had to be able to bounce back from that,” said Tevin Mack who was one of four double-figure scorers for Alabama with 11 points.
They had plenty of adversity in this one, too, as the Crimson Tide watched their 13-point first-half lead disappear as they trailed 54-49 with seven minutes left.
That’s when Alabama rallied with a 14-3 run to take control. Mack began the comeback with a three and Lewis put Alabama ahead for good with two foul shots during the stretch.
Donta Hall had 15 points and 10 rebounds as Alabama won its fourth straight against South Carolina (14-14, 9-6).
Riley Norris had 11 points, all in the second half and John Petty had a career best 10 rebounds for the Crimson Tide.
Silva led South Carolina with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
South Carolina didn’t look like a team that had risen to fourth in the stacked SEC, missing 14 straight shots at one point to fall behind 28-15. Alabama, though, has struggled to score at times this season and that kept things tighter than it should’ve been given the Gamecocks inability to make shots in the first half.
When South Carolina hit three straight shots, the Crimson Tide were up just 29-25 with 10 seconds left in the half. Lewis, though, took an inbounds pass and raced the length of the court for an easy jumper as time ran out.
Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said his team’s resolve was good, “but I’m disappointed we couldn’t find a way to close a game where we were up by five.”
South Carolina shot just 30.8 percent , its lowest percentage of the season. That included going 4 of 19 on 3-pointers.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide kept alive their chances at climbing to fourth in the SEC standings. Lewis and Hall showed they can be a dangerous one-two punch for Alabama down the stretch.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have fallen into big holes too often this season during SEC play and may have run out of gas after climbing out of another. It was the 11th time in SEC play South Carolina has trailed by double digits. They’ve gone 5-6 in those contests.
Alabama junior Tevin Mack is from Columbia and played his first game in his home city. He had several family members at the game and posed for pictures afterwards. Mack started his college career at Texas before transferring to the Crimson Tide.
South Carolina freshman A.J. Lawson rolled his left ankle on a drive to the basket with 8:24 left. He was helped up and taken straight to locker room without putting any weight on the injury. Martin did not know Lawson’s status, but said the loss affected the team because he typically puts the ball in Lawson’s hands down the stretch, confident he’ll make right decisions.
Alabama hosts No. 13 LSU on Saturday.
South Carolina travels to Missouri on Saturday.
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