After trailing Alabama by as much as 12 during the second half Friday night, Penn State rallied to take a one-point lead with 7:58 left in the second half.
It was short-lived though, largely because of Donta Hall.
It was a second straight nice game for the Crimson Tide’s senior forward. After scoring a career-high 21 points during the Tide’s win over Liberty on Tuesday, Hall had a team-high 17 points during Alabama’s 73-64 victory over Penn State on Friday, including eight points during an important 10-4 Tide run after Alabama had fallen behind with 7:58 remaining.
After scoring an average of only 7.9 points in the previous eight games, Hall — who graduated on Saturday — has posted 38 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks in Alabama’s two games this week.
“School was a little tough, and I was stressing with basketball and school,” Hall said. “So I had graduation Saturday and I feel a little bit more freedom. I feel better honestly.”
That’s good for Alabama. Also good was the Tide’s response after falling behind 23-9 midway through the first half against Penn State.
Alabama answered with a 24-0 run over the next seven minutes, eventually taking a 33-23 lead courtesy of a John Petty and-one that came after a Petty 3 and an and-one from the biggest star of the night, Hall.
The Tide (8-3) has won three straight games since blowing a 22-point lead and losing to Georgia State Dec. 4. Alabama has gotten victories over Arizona, Liberty and now Penn State, which beat No. 13 Virginia Tech and — according to Avery Johnson — is the best team the Tide has faced despite being just 6-6.
“I just think it’s (about) how you respond when you relinquish a (22-point lead) at home and then you have a segment — a small, small, small segment, a small, small, small segment, not a big segment, a small, small segment — of maybe doubters and fans that say they they’ve given up on you and we’re not coming back anymore,” Johnson said. “… But I think it was a great testimony to how were we going to respond after such a (tough loss). I still have that taste in my mouth. And give them credit that they were able to bounce back and not drop their heads. That didn’t look like the same team that played two weeks ago or three weeks ago when we gave up that lead.”
NOTE: Alabama honored former Tide coach C.M. Newton, who passed away in June, at halftime Friday night. “I am just so honored that we had a chance to recognize C.M. Newton at halftime,” Johnson said. “He was a great man. I know I shared this with you guys the other day, but he was really a great friend of our program.”
Matt Zenitz is an Alabama and Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mzenitz.