John Petty’s career night leads Alabama to 105-87 win over Samford in Chick-fil-a Classic

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – The best first half in more than a year for Alabama and a career night for John Petty helped the Crimson Tide take home a 105-87 victory in the inaugural Chick-fil-a Classic at Birmingham’s Legacy Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Petty finished the game with a new career high in points with 39 and added a double-double to his impressive night thanks to 10 rebounds. His shooting night featured 10 made 3-pointers in 13 attempts and a 12-for-18 mark from the field.

“It was the shots I was taking, they were wide open,” Petty said. “My teammates did a great job of making the extra pass. It gave me quality shots. Also, I’ve played in this gym numerous times so I have a pretty good feel for the rims and court.”

As a team, Alabama (5-5) posted its first 100-point game since 2017 and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc for the first time this season. The Crimson Tide also shot 51.6 percent from the floor and knocked down 22 of their 26 free throws from the stripe for a percentage of 84.6 percent to close out a special shooting night. That was a welcome sight after shooting woes in the Penn State game.

“Our effort was good enough to win that Penn State game,” Oats said. “We shot like 57 percent from the free throw line if I remember correctly. If we had shot against Penn State what we shot tonight, we beat a top 25 team on the road.

“I think guys are realizing the importance of shooting free throws and getting shots up, and they’re doing that. Shooting covers a lot of mistakes. You can make an awful lot of mistakes, but if you shoot the ball like we did tonight, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

Petty’s start to the game helped spark a 22-2 run out of the gate for the Crimson Tide in what became a strong offensive night. Petty knocked down four 3-pointers in the first 3:24 of play for 12 quick points, while teammate Alex Reese gave a good one-two punch with eight points in that same span.

Those two helped spark what became a dominant first half for Alabama on the offensive end of the floor that saw the Crimson Tide shoot 57.9 percent from beyond the arc, making 11 of their 19 shots from long range.

Petty went on to post 23 first-half points in one of his best halves of the season behind 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range and 8-of-11 shooting from the field.

He was joined in double figures by Reese, who posted 14 points in the half thanks to 4-of-6 shooting from the field and a 2-for-2 mark from the free throw line.

“When somebody gets going, I think it’s easier for all of us,” Reese said. “The basket feels like it opens up for you, and our teammates were able to get us some open shots.”

Shooting 61.3 percent from the field and holding Samford to 44.8 percent, including 3-for-12 from beyond the arc, Alabama was able to take a 57-35 lead into the half.

That 57-point half marked their first 50-point first half of the season and first since Georgia State on Dec. 4, 2018.

In that game against Georgia State, Alabama led 52-31 at the half and went on to lose 83-80. And again on a night where the Crimson Tide had a large lead, they were tested in the second half.

Petty and Reese both added early points, with Petty knocking down his seventh 3-pointer of the game, but Samford responded with a 9-0 run that eventually turned into a 24-7 run that brought the Bulldogs to within eight points at 73-65 with 12:51 to play in the game.

The Bulldogs’ run saw them make 10 of 11 shots, while the Crimson Tide turned the ball over seven times.

“We didn’t handle the pressure very well,” Oats said. “I thought our defense slacked off, which is kind of human nature when the offense comes as easy as it did in the first half. Guys have a tendency to not play as hard as we need to. We addressed it at the half, but still didn’t do a good enough job coming out in the second half.”

But shortly after, Petty found his stroke again with back-to-back 3-pointers on consecutive trips up the floor, which halted the run and put Alabama back up by 12 points and tied the juniors career high of 34 points with 11:20 still left to play.

Samford, however, didn’t fold. With the Bulldogs feeling it from the field, they continued to battle back and eventually cut the deficit to six points at 83-77. But that’s as close as they were able to get the rest of the night.

Petty went on to grab his career-high on two made free throws with four minutes to play, which was part of a 6-0 run for Alabama that seemed to be the final blow for Samford’s comeback attempt.

Alabama hit the 100-point mark with 3:51 to play, and shortly after, Petty hit his 10th 3-pointer to put the Tide up 103-87, before closing out the 18-point victory.

In addition to Petty, Reese finished with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Jaden Shackleford and Kira Lewis also finished in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Herb Jones also had a solid night with nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Lewis added five rebounds and five assists.