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Alabama blows 22-point lead, loses stunner

Avery Johnson, clearly stunned and deflated, took one final look at the scoreboard as he walked off the court at Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night and shook his head.

After playing arguably its best half of the season, the Crimson Tide followed it with maybe its worst half of the season, a half that ended with Alabama losing on a stunning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The final: Georgia State 83, Alabama 80.

Once the call was confirmed, once it was announced that the 3-pointer was good and the game was over, Georgia State coach Ron Hunter — clearly stunned and emotional for more positive reasons — celebrated by bending down and slapping the Coleman Coliseum court a few times in jubilation before walking over and shaking hands with a dejected-looking Johnson.

“I didn’t sense the focus at halftime, like when I first walked in the room, and that’s why I was very concerned because I knew this game wasn’t over,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we’ll learn from it and grow from it, but this is a tough loss. You can’t lose games like this at home when you’re trying to build a resume.”

Alabama’s field goal percentage in the first half: 59.4.

The field goal percentage in the second half: 29.2.

After making 19 of 32 shots in that first half, including eight 3s, the Tide was just 7 of 24 from the field and 2 of 9 on 3s during the second half.

Alabama pushed its lead, which was 52-31 at halftime, to 55-33 early in the second half. From there, Georgia State, which lost 78-52 to Liberty on Saturday, outscored the Tide 50-25 during the final 18 minutes.

The Panthers, an NCAA tournament team last year who beat Georgia Nov. 21, tied the game at 78 with 1:35 remaining with a D’Marcus Simonds and-one.

Simonds followed that up by giving Georgia State the lead at 80-78. Then, after a Dazon Ingram game-tying layup for the Tide with 24 seconds left, the Panthers ran the clock down and Malik Benlevi hit a game-winning 3 from the wing at the buzzer.

“They’re not a great 3-point shooting team,” Hunter said of Alabama. “I even told our team, ‘They’re going to start missing some of those shots.’ And so they did. And I thought the second half defensively we were flying around and playing like we’re capable of playing. And (Benlevi) did what a senior’s supposed to do and hit a big shot.”

It’s the second straight loss for Alabama, which has now dropped two in a row after starting 5-1.

This one was particularly bad though, a crazy outcome that was probably still a little bit unbelievable for Johnson when he looked up at the scoreboard during that walk to the locker room.

Matt Zenitz is an Alabama and Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mzenitz.

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