Lewis’s big 2nd half helps Alabama beat Murray State 78-72

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Freshman Kira Lewis Jr. scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half to help Alabama beat Murray State 78-72 on Monday night.

“Credit to Alabama,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon. “Thought they did a terrific job of really protecting the basket. . I was proud of our guys fight and our toughness. A lot that we’ll be able to learn moving forward.”

John Petty Jr. added 16 points while Alex Reese and Dazon Ingram each scored nine points for Alabama (5-1). The Crimson Tide picked up 29 points from its bench while Murray State’s reserves scored just 11.

Ja Morant poured in 38 points for Murray State (3-1). Morant, who shot 55 percent from the floor, played so well that Alabama fans gave him a standing ovation after a late put-back dunk.

“We saw him on film,” Petty said of Morant. “Nine times out of 10 when we see them on film, they come into the building and they aren’t the same. He was the same. He’s a great player.”

Alabama coach Avery Johnson compared Morant to NBA Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and John Stockton along with Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook.

“He’s a dynamic player,” Johnson said. “I can clearly understand why on some mock drafts he’s trending as a lottery pick.”

The Crimson Tide knocked down 23 of 30 free-throw attempts, including eight straight in the final 25 seconds to hold off the Racers.

BIG PICTURE

Murray State: It was a close loss against one of the two SEC foes the Racers will face this season, including No. 8 Auburn on Dec. 22.

Alabama: It was a quality win over a team that went 26-2 last year, including 16-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference, and made the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT

Murray State resumes play on Saturday with a home game against Prairie View.

Alabama gets a couple of days off before hitting the road to face UCF on Thursday night.