TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — After an embarrassing loss in its last outing to Georgia, a squad winless in the Southeastern Conference, Alabama was a team with several questions and no answers.
Against No. 4 Baylor in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, the Crimson Tide may have gotten their spark back.
The Crimson Tide used a 14-2 run early in the second half and another big surge down the stretch to pull off an 87-78 win.
“Our defense was a lot better and when we needed stops we got them,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "I told our guys they needed to start having fun. That was a fun environment today and our energy was much better. That was encouraging.”
Jaden Shackelford scored 19 points and had nine rebounds for Alabama (14-7), which has now beaten three teams that reached the Final Four last season. Along with the defending champion Bears, the Crimson Tide knocked off then-No. 1 Gonzaga in early December and topped Houston a week later.
The Crimson Tide led by four points with under three minutes to play, then freshman J.D. Davison scored seven of his 14 points to seal the win.
Jahvon Quinerly scored 20 points for Alabama, Juwan Gary had 15 and Keon Ellis 11.
Quinerly had eight points late in the second half, helping spark Alabama after getting called for a charge. It also resulted in a double-technical foul on Quinerly and Baylor’s James Akinjo.
“Me and Akinjo are two competitive guys,” Quinerly said. “I came into the game really pumped up after we had two good practices after the Georgia loss. It followed over into the game. That’s the competitive nature off the game. It was a really good bounce-back game.”
Baylor (18-3) played without its leading scorer, LJ Cryer, who's had foot soreness. Akinjo, who was the Bears’ top scorer two weeks ago before a back injury limited his minutes, had just eight points and didn’t hit his first basket until midway through the second half.
Jeremy Sochan scored 17 for Baylor and Adam Flagler had 16, going 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
The Bears had won 36 straight non-conference games dating to 2019. They also had won 14 road games in a row overall.
We did a good job coming back,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Rebounding-wise, that was an area that we thought we’d do a little bit better in the first half, and we didn’t. The second half when we got down, they scored too many points in transition, again too many turnovers from us. And then the big thing is at the end of day, points in the paint.”
Alabama used a 14-2 run early in the second half to take a 57-42 lead with about 13 minutes left. Noah Gurley blocked a dunk attempt by Flo Thamba, and Ellis hit a 3-pointer on the other end to break it open.
Mathew Mayer scored 12 points and Kendall Brown 10 for Baylor.
Baylor: The offense missed the presence of Cryer, but the good news is other players stepped up when needed, getting 26 points from the bench.
Alabama: Perimeter shooting continues to be an area of concern. Entering the game, Alabama was at 30% on 3-pointers. The Crimson Tide limited its 3-point shooting against Baylor, hitting 7 of 21.
Baylor: Hosts West Virginia on Monday.
Alabama: Plays at Auburn on Tuesday.
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