TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)Noah Gurley and Nick Pringle helped bail out a short-handed Alabama frontcourt before Mark Sears heated up in the second half.
Gurley scored a season-high 16 points and Sears had 15, all after halftime, to lead No. 9 Alabama to an 84-64 victory over Jackson State on Tuesday night.
Pringle’s 14 points were five more than he totaled in the first 11 games this season.
The Crimson Tide (10-2), coming off a 100-90 loss to No. 11 Gonzaga, struggled much of the way and even trailed a minute into the second half against the Tigers (1-11). Alabama scored the final eight points, though.
”I don’t want to say our guys overlooked it, but I thought our energy was a lot better in the second half than it was at the beginning of the game,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said.
Gurley nearly tripled his season average of 5.8 points and Sears took over with three second-half 3-pointers against a team coached by former Alabama and NBA player Mo Williams.
The Tide played without top rebounder and No. 3 scorer Noah Clowney, sidelined with an illness.
Pringle helped fill the void with nine rebounds after coming into the game scoring less than one point per game. The junior college transfer’s previous season high was four points, but he made all five field goal attempts.
Brandon Miller, the nation’s top-scoring freshman, had 10 points. It was half his season average, but Miller also grabbed 14 rebounds.
”They weren’t letting him get off on offense,” Oats said. ”They were denying him everywhere and playing real physical with him.”
Ken Evans Jr. led Jackson State with 18 points. Trace Young had 10 rebounds and scored seven points for the Tigers, who were down only seven with less than six minutes to play.
”I’m excited to be back and obviously bring my group of guys to a house I once lived in,” Williams said. ”I’m proud of the way my team competed against a top-10 team in the country.”
Alabama led just 33-32 after a sloppy first half when Jackson State scored nine straight points late to whittle away at a double-digit margin. The Tide committed 13 turnovers by halftime and Jackson State scored the first basket coming out of the locker room.
Jackson State: Dropped its fifth straight game, including a 102-52 defeat against Texas Tech and a 69-59 loss to No. 15 Mississippi State. The Tigers play their first 14 games on the road.
Alabama: Even with Jackson State missing 11 straight shots, Alabama still found itself tied more than 11 minutes into the game. The Tide committed 17 turnovers but only four in the second half.
Williams, who helped lead Alabama to the 2002 Southeastern Conference title, is in his first year coaching at Jackson State. He spent 14 years in the NBA and was part of Cleveland’s 2016 championship team. He spent the past two seasons at Alabama State.
”Obviously, I’ve been trying to get this game ever since I became a head coach, and I’m glad that we were able to get it this year,” said Williams, who was sporting a No. 25 Alabama jersey dangling from a chain around his neck.
Gurley knew Alabama’s other big men had to step up in Clowney’s absence.
”He’s probably our hardest-playing player,” Gurley said. ”He’s everywhere – rebounding, making shots, affecting at the defensive end. So we knew we had to pick that up.”
Jackson State visits Stephen F. Austin on Thursday night.
Alabama opens SEC play at No. 15 Mississippi State on Dec. 28.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25