Clowney, No. 11, Alabama, recovers to beat South Dakota St

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Freshman Noah Clowney’s breakout game — 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal — helped No. 11 Alabama recover from a 20-point lead and beat the State of South Dakota 78-65 Saturday night.

Clowney shot 8 of 17, including 5 of 12 for 3, in his highest scoring game of the season.

“We encouraged him to shoot it, I’m glad he did,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “His senior year of high school, he started off pretty bad from age 3 and then he turned 40% after that, so I sort of referenced that.”

Alabama (7-1) led 37-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. South Dakota State (3-6) rallied to go ahead 51-50 on Alex Arians’ 3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes left.

Nimari Burnett’s faulty shot a minute later gave the Crimson Tide the lead at 54-53. Alabama used a 9-0 run to pull away.

Mark Sears scored 19 points and Brandon Miller had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama hit 14 of its first 26 shots to build a big lead before slipping away.

“I’m not going to call them mature, we still have room to grow,” Oats said. “Our guys have to understand, no matter who we’re up against, even if their record isn’t great, they’re Division I basketball players, they’re good teams. Last year we had problems with this along the way.

Charlie Easley and Arians each scored 17 points for the Jackrabbits. Zeke Mayo added 12 points and Matt Dentlinger contributed nine rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Sears continues to be a home force for Alabama. In Alabama’s last three home games — wins over Liberty, Jacksonville State and South Dakota State — he scored 22, 18 and 19 points, making at least three 3-pointers in all three games. Alabama’s next home game will face a Memphis team that already has two wins in SEC competition.

SECOND HALF OF SPRING

South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson noticed that in Alabama’s first two home games, Longwood and Liberty both trailed by less than 10 points at halftime before losing respectively 21 and 36 points. He considered the first five minutes of the second half critical on both occasions, seeing an Alabama team use the home environment to their advantage.

Henderson stressed to his team that they needed to earn those five minutes to stand a chance. Trailing 42-35 at the break, he did it and finally took the lead.

“They really increase the pressure, they try to play a little bit faster, they go down and they really spray,” Henderson said. “I thought we were getting around 50-50 balls, I thought we were playing with some confidence. There have been a lot of schools to come here and have a good first half and it ends up being a 30 or 40 point game.

NEXT

South Dakota State remains on the road to face Montana on Tuesday.

Alabama is taking a week off before its second game against the nation’s current No. 1 team, this time a road game against Houston on Saturday. The Crimson Tide beat the former North Carolina No. 1 on their first shot against the top-seeded team, winning 103-101 in four overtime on Nov. 27.


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