TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team had its 2018-19 season come to an end with an 80-79 overtime loss to Norfolk State in the opening round of the 2019 National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday night in Coleman Coliseum.
Sophomore Herbert Jones set a career-high with 18 points going 6-of-10 from the field. Sophomore Alex Reese scored 17 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting from deep and pulled down seven rebounds, while fellow sophomore John Petty Jr. collected 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. Freshman Kira Lewis Jr. added 10 points in the losing effort.
Graduate senior Riley Norris started the game and in doing so, he surpassed former standout Levi Randolph as the program leader in career games played (136).
"First of all, I want to congratulate Norfolk State because they played an outstanding game, especially in the second half," Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. "They came out with a lot of energy and it all started with a big three by Derrik Jamerson at the end of the first half. He really got hot in the second half and we lost him a couple of times. He looked like the prolific three-point shooter that he is, shooting fifty-two percent from the line, second in the country. I'm proud of our seniors. We made all those guys stand up in front of the team and we wanted to honor them for all of their hard work and dedication to the program on and off the court. It was a disappointing loss. The way we lost this game is some of the same reasons why we didn't make the tournament. It gives us a lot to work on whenever we can get started with our offseason training. I told those guys we don't ever want to feel like this again."
Behind the performances of both Reese and Petty, Alabama reserves chipped in 41 points and outscored the Spartans 41-27 in points off the bench.
The game featured 14 lead changes and eight ties throughout the game.
After Norfolk State took a 4-0 lead early on, Alabama went on a 16-4 run to take a 16-8 lead just a few minutes into the contest. NSU would battle back with an 8-0 run to tie the game up at 16-16 with over nine minutes remaining in the first half. The game would remain close until Alex Reese caught on fire with 14 straight points to help give the Tide a 35-28 lead going at the half.
After going up by 10 points early in the second half, Norfolk State would again battle back with a 10-0 run tying the game at 40-40 with just under 16 minutes left in the game. It would be a back-and-forth game the rest of the way. The Spartans managed to take a four-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation, however, Alabama clawed its way back as junior Tevin Mack hit a jumper followed and free throw by Lewis cut the lead to only one, 65-64.
After Norfolk State hit a jumper, Petty would respond to hit a timely three sending the game into overtime tied at 67-67. It was the Crimson Tide's first overtime game since the quadruple overtime contest at South Caroline on Feb. 7, 2017.
After a made three-pointer by NSU's Derrik Jamerson, Alabama would regain the lead with back-to-back baskets by Donta Hall to go up 71-70. The Spartans would respond with five straight points to take a 75-71 lead with just under two minutes remaining in overtime.
With Alabama trailing by four, 80-76, Jones knocked down the three to cut the lead to only one with six seconds remaining. Norfolk State the turned the ball over trying to in-bound the ball to set up one last chance for the Tide. However, the runner by Riley Norris on the baseline fell short to seal the win over the Spartans.
Jamerson led all scorers with 25 points for Norfolk State and was one of four players for the Spartans to finish in double figures. NSU held a 49-45 advantage on the glass which resulted in a 22-13 advantage on second chance points.