TUSCALOOSA — Heavy traffic on Interstate 20 caused much of the 10,347 reported attendance inside Coleman Coliseum to show up late for Wednesday’s game between Alabama and Missouri.
The Crimson Tide’s shooting arrived equally tardy.
Alabama battled back from a poor first-half shooting performance to beat Missouri 68-56 and earn its sixth win in seven games. The Tide (11-6, 4-1) is off to its best start in SEC play since the 2012-13 season when it also started 4-1 in conference play. Missouri (5-12, 0-5) lost for the ninth straight time.
“Even if it was ugly, I’ll take as many of these ugly wins as we can throughout the rest of conference,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “Sometimes we do have to play ugly because of our decision making on the offensive end.”
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Alabama shot 10 of 30 from the floor in the first half, including 3 of 15 from 3-point range. However, for the second straight game, the Tide found its shooting touch in the second half, making 56.5 percent of its shots, including 6 of 12 from beyond the arc, to pull away.
“There’s always corrections,” Alabama forward Riley Norris said. “We thought we were playing too slow. They were staying back in a zone, and Coach came in and made some adjustments. We started moving the ball more. As you saw, we created a lot of open windows.”
Putting in his second straight big performance, Norris tied for a team-high 13 points with four rebounds on the night. Norris scored a season-best 20 points in the Tide’s previous game against LSU and was the lone bright spot in the Tide’s first-half woes from the court.
“I think it’s my teammates,” Norris said. “They do a great job of penetrating. Braxton (Key), Avery (Johnson Jr.), Dazon (Ingram), Corban (Collins), they get two on the ball, so that makes it easy on me. They find me, I’m wide open, it makes it easier for me to have a wide-open 3.”
Avery Johnson Jr. also had 13 points on the night and was followed in double figures by Dazon Ingram with 12 points and Braxton Key 11 points.
After trailing Alabama 26-19 at the half, Missouri came out of the break strong, cutting the lead to 28-24 with 18:36. However, back-to-back 3s from Ingram quickly erased any momentum the Tigers were building.
“Killer,” Missouri head coach Kim Anderson said of the 3s. “We went to the zone, they overloaded on us, and we couldn’t get out of it fast enough. We were hoping they would continue shooting like they did in the first half, but obviously they didn’t.”
Missouri didn’t do itself any favors either, turning the ball over 19 times. In fact, the Tigers had two more turnovers than made field goals (17) on the night.
“I thought we were uncharacteristically careless,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how many blocked shots they had, but we seemed like we drove into the lane a lot and we couldn’t make a play.”
Missouri was led by Terrence Phillips, who scored a game-high 16 points while tallying seven assists and four rebounds off the bench. Russell Woods joined Phillips in double figures with 13 points.
Alabama will hit the road to take on Auburn at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“We have to get back in the lab and work hard and get ready for out next game,” Johnson said. “Like all of our games, playing on the road is tough in our league.”