Alabama Falls in Final Minutes to Tennessee, 69-68

(Courtesy: Alabama Athletics)
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. The Alabama men's basketball team dropped a narrow decision to Tennessee on Tuesday night inside Coleman Coliseum, falling 69-68. The Crimson Tide gave up 19 offensive rebounds on its way to being outrebounded 42-33 and was forced into 20 turnovers to result in its season-long third consecutive loss.

The biggest story was at the free throw line, as the Volunteers connected on 23-of-32 foul shots for the game compared to just 5-of-8 for the Crimson Tide. That included 21 free throws in the second half alone for UT while Alabama attempted only two from the charity stripe after the intermission.

It was the second consecutive home loss for Alabama (12-10, 4-5 SEC), which fell to Arkansas last Saturday despite leading for more than 25 minutes in that contest. The Tide also held the lead over Tennessee for 32:27 of Tuesday night's game but failed to pull out the victory.

Sophomore Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with 19 points, shooting 8-of-15 from the field, to go along with four assists and three boards. Freshman Jaden Shackelford finished with 12 points, connecting on 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Junior John Petty added eight points and lead the Tide with 11 rebounds and a career high-tying seven assists.

Tennessee was led by John Fulkerson who finished with 22 points, while Jordan Bowden added 20. Yves Pons was big inside as he finished with 14 points and a game-high 14 boards on the night, including eight offensive rebounds.

Coach Nate Oats Postgame Comments
"Tough one. It's kind of the same story as last game. We came out ready to play. Our effort was good to start the game. Defensive effort was great for the first 12 minutes. We kind of relaxed a little but for the last eight, we didn't close the game well. They ended the half on an 8-1 run when we were up 15 with under two minutes to go. Then they started the second half on a run so it's the same issue we've been having. I can't put my finger on it. I don't have an answer."

"The leadership to get us ready to play has been great. If you look at our starts, we've had two good starts in two straight games. I don't have an answer for why we can't sustain that effort. I thought we made some good plays. We outrebounded them by one in the first half and then got outrebounded by 10 in the second half. It was tough with the foul trouble. We have three bigs that we play in the rotation and they all end up fouling out which was big, because they bodied us up inside. John (Petty) had to play the four position pretty much the whole night because of us being in foul trouble, but he did a great job and had 11 rebounds. He battled hard in there, but it's not really his position playing the four."

"Foul trouble, injuries, we miss Herb (Jones). That would clean up some of the rebounding issues. We've got to do a better job of playing defense without fouling. That's an issue. 32 to 8 at the free throw line. We've got to figure out how to defend without fouling."

Team Stats
- The Volunteers scored 23 of their 69 points from the charity stripe – approximately 33 percent
- The 68 points scored by Alabama were the second-lowest output in a game this season (67 at Kentucky and vs. North Carolina)
- Alabama was whistled for 26 fouls compared to 14 fouls called against Tennessee
- Over the final 4:30, Tennessee scored 12 points, seven of which came from the charity stripe (7-of-8)
- The Vols outrebounded the Tide 42-33 which marked just the eighth time in 22 games this season the UA has lost the battle of the boards
- Graduate senior Beetle Bolden finished with five points and an assist in 23 minutes of play after missing the last two games due to illness
- Lewis has now scored double digit points in 20 out of 22 games

First Half
- Alabama held Tennessee to just 2-of-10 shooting to begin the game, as the Tide held a 7-5 lead at the 15:43 media timeout
- After the Volunteers tied the game at 10-10, the Tide went on an 10-0 run and took a 20-10 lead at the 10:12 mark
- Back-to-back triples from Reese extended Alabama's lead to 36-21 with 3:25 to go until halftime
- UA led 39-24, however, Tennessee scored eight of the final nine points in the half to trail 40-32 at halftime
- Shackelford and Reese each scored eight points in the first half to pace the Crimson Tide

Second Half
- The Volunteers scored the first four points of the second half to make it a 12-1 run that spanned halftime and trimmed the deficit to 40-36
- The Crimson Tide answered with six straight points to stretch its lead to 46-36 with 15:08 to play
- A 14-4 Volunteers spurt tied the game at 50-50 with 9:54 remaining
- Tennessee took its first lead of the second half, 54-53, at the 8:22 mark
- Tennessee connected on seven of its final eight shots, including two
crucial free throws by Pons with 4.6 second left to make it a 69-65 contest
- Lewis' three-pointer at the buzzer resulted in the final score

Alabama will travel to Athens, Ga., to face the Bulldogs Saturday night at 5 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on SEC Network.