Kira Lewis Jr. and Alabama made sure this one didn’t slip away.
The freshman made a 3-pointer and two free throws over the final 13 seconds and the Crimson Tide held on for a 76-73 victory over Arizona on Sunday.
Lewis pulled up for the uncontested shot after the Tide (6-3), which had lost a big lead for the second straight game, worked most of the shot clock down. His teammates weren’t surprised that the 5-star recruit made the big shot.
“I always have confidence in Kira shooting the ball, especially when he gets a good look like that,” Alex Reese said. “I feel like it’s going to go in most of the time.”
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Added Tevin Mack: “He’s a killer.”
Arizona didn’t go away quietly even after that.
Brandon Randolph drained a 3 from the top of the key with seven seconds left to keep the Wildcats (7-3) alive. After a quick foul, John Petty made the second of two free throws to push the cushion back to three points, at 74-71. Justin Coleman, who started his college career at Alabama, made two free throws with 5 seconds left.
Lewis hit both his foul shots on the other end and an Arizona desperation heave from near midcourt fell well short.
Lewis finished with 20 points and made 4 of 5 3-pointers. Reese scored 15 points off the bench. Donta Hall added 13 points and nine rebounds and Mack scored 12.
Chase Jeter led Arizona with 19 points and nine rebounds. Rudolph scored 17 and Brandon Williams had 16.
Jeter said Alabama “played harder than us.”
“We’re a tough team but we need to be tough for 40 minutes of the game and try not to let ourselves get in that position in the first place,” he said of the big deficit.
The Tide flirted with another collapse after watching a 19-point first-half lead evaporate. Georgia State had wiped out a 22-point deficit in the second half Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum and won on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“Terrific bounce-back victory,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Really exemplified the character of our team. I don’t know that a lot of teams can come back and win after such a disappointing second half that we had in our last game, at home.”
Alabama had seven players score during a 23-2 run in the first half to build a 33-14 lead. The Wildcats trimmed it to 39-30 by halftime on Williams’ 3-pointer and kept closing the gap to start the second.
Arizona: Had three-game winning streak snapped. Only previous visit to the state of Alabama came in the NCAA Tournament in 1997 when the Wildcats went on to win the national title. Won 10 of its last 12 road nonconference games.
Alabama: Finished strong to avoid a repeat of the last game’s ending. Got a much-needed win in its most high-profile nonconference game.
Coleman spent two seasons at Alabama, starting 16 games, and arrived at Arizona after a season at Samford in Birmingham, Alabama. He got a warm reception during pregame introductions and heated up in the second half. Coleman had eight points, six assists and five rebounds.
“This kid is world-class,” Alabama’s Johnson said. “Great attitude, hard worker. He shows a lot of class on a daily basis.”
Alabama guard Dazon Ingram had back spasms after battling for a loose ball late in the first half and didn’t return.
Arizona: Hosts Baylor on Saturday night.
Alabama: Has time off before facing Liberty on Dec. 18 in Huntsville, Alabama.