BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)Noah Clowney and Rylan Griffen led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points each to carry No. 4 Alabama to a 79-69 victory over LSU on Saturday.
Nimari Burnett and Mark Sears each had 13 points and Brandon Miller had 11 for the Crimson Tide (20-3, 10-0 Southeastern Conference).
The Tigers (12-11, 1-9) have lost 10 straight. Derek Fountain led LSU with a career-high 26 points. Cam Hayes came off the bench and scored 15 points. Tigers leading scorer KJ Williams was held to eight points, nine below his season average.
”It was definitely not one of our better wins,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. ”Sometimes when you’re competing for a championship, you have to go on the road and win games that aren’t pretty.”
Alabama did not take control of the game until midway through the second half. Holding a two-point advantage at the 13-minute mark of the second half, the Crimson Tide went on a 19-9 run over the next six minutes.
Alabama’s long-range shooting carried it during this run. Both Griffen and Sears made two 3-pointers and Clowney made one 3-pointer in this stretch. Sears’ second 3-pointer gave the Crimson Tide a 75-63 lead with 7:19 remaining.
Alabama did not finish strong, going more than six minutes without a point. The Crimson Tide’s lead was down to six points at 75-69 entering the final minute. Both Sears and Miller made two free throws in the last 45 seconds.
”Our defense was nowhere close to where we’d like it to be,” Oats said. ”Late in the game, we got some stops when we needed to. Clowney really stepped up for us big late. We’re at 10-0 (in the SEC) and we’ve got a tough week ahead of us, a couple of tough weeks ahead of us to be honest with you.”
LSU stayed within striking distance of Alabama throughout the first half. On two occasions in the first 12 minutes, the Crimson Tide went ahead by nine points – the last at 29-20 on a 3-pointer by Miller.
Sparked by a technical foul on Oats, the Tigers reduced their deficit to three points at 33-30 after Williams made two free throws with 4:23 before halftime. The Crimson Tide then went on an 11-4 run to take a double-digit lead in the final minute.
”We saw some improvement from our team,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. ”Alabama just has so much firepower and they can really score it at a high level. The last seven minutes of the game, both teams struggled to score. We got stops, but we were not able to convert those into points.”
PICKING UP THE SLACK
Miller and Sears, Alabama’s top two scorers, had subpar offensive games. Miller, who is averaging 19 points a game, finished with 11. Miller missed eight of his 11 field goal attempts. Sears ended with 13 points, just one below his season average, thanks to a flurry of points over the last eight minutes. Clowney, Griffen and Burnett stepped up on the offensive end of the floor. The trio made 15 of their 26 field goal attempts.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide, which has won its first ten conference games for just the third time in school history, will enter the final four weeks of the SEC schedule with a two-game lead. But the schedule will become more challenging with two games against Auburn and games against both Tennessee and Texas A&M down the stretch. Three of those four games will be on the road.
LSU: The Tigers’ losing streak has now reached 10 games, with nine of the defeats coming against SEC opponents. All but one of LSU’s conference losses have come against teams who began Saturday with a winning league record.
Alabama returns home to play Florida on Wednesday night.
LSU plays at Mississippi State on Wednesday night.
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