The way the ball was dropping Saturday, Alabama didn’t necessarily need another 30-point effort from John Petty Jr.
But Huntsville’s native son produced in other ways, registering his third double-double in the last five games to lead a season-high six Crimson Tide players in double figures during a 92-72 victory over Belmont during Saturday’s Rocket City Classic in the Von Braun Center.
Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford led Alabama’s second-straight 90-plus point effort with 16 points, while junior wing Herbert Jones and sophomore guard Kira Liewis Jr., a fellow Huntsville-area product, added 15 points apiece. Petty contributed 14 points, a team-high 11 rebounds and four assists. Fellow sharpshooting junior Alex Reese contributed 13 points, and redshirt freshman forward Javian Davis had 12 points.
The Crimson Tide (6-5) shot better than 50 percent (50.7) in back-to-back games for the first time all season, draining 34 of 67 field goals, including 14 3-pointers.
Here are three takeaways from Alabama’s convincing 92-72 rout of Belmont (8-4) in Saturday’s Rocket City Classic:
1. Nine is more than enough to get it done.
Ravaged by injuries throughout non-conference play, Alabama played just nine players Saturday against Belmont.
Led by 16 points from Shackelford, who made his first start since the season opener, the Crimson Tide’s starting five combined for 73 of its 92 points on 26 of 52 (50 percent) shooting, including 13 of the team’s 14 3-pointers.
Shackelford, Petty Jr. and Reese combined to make 11 of 21 from 3-point range, accounting for 78.5 percent of Alabama’s 14 made 3s.
Over the past two games, the Tide has made 31 of its 66 attempted 3-pointers (47 percent) after contributing a season-high 17 3s in Wednesday’s 105-87 win at Samford.
That 3-point prowess was key Saturday as Alabama jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the game’s first 31/2 minutes. It also helped the Tide climb out of a 32-26 hole over the final 5 minutes of the first half as Shackelford, Lewis and Petty hit four straight 3-pointers in the midst of a 20-6 closing run for a 46-38 lead at halftime.
That lead ballooned to a game-high 23 (71-48) as Alabama opened the first 5 minutes of the second half on a 25-10 run to pull away for good.
2. Lewis gets it done more ways than one.
During the first two games of Alabama’s recent three-game road stretch, Kira Lewis Jr. wasn’t the high-scoring phenom Alabama fans have come to expect with just 18 combined points.
Well the Meridianville product more than filled the stat sheet Saturday, scoring 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting to go along with a team-high eight assists and seven rebounds.
Lewis did most of his damage in the second half, recording 10 points, five assists and four rebounds to go along with a block and a steal on the defensive end for a positive efficiency of 23 to rank second on the team behind only Petty’s 26.
3. Tide closing out non-conference slate strong.
After a rocky and often disappointing start to the season, Alabama is coming together at just the right time as it closes out non-conference play next week.
Alabama (6-5) has won its last two games, averaging 98.5 points per game, and four of its last five games ahead of next Sunday’s final home game of 2019 against Richmond.
Closing out the month of December with five wins in six games would be big for an Alabama team that has high postseason hopes in Nate Oats’ first season and opens Southeastern Conference play next month with a Jan. 4 game at Florida.