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Alabama pulls away from Memphis in Veterans Classic

Alabama’s patchwork lineup fared better than Memphis’ as the Crimson Tide pulled away for an 82-70 victory over the Tigers in the opening game of the Veterans Classic at Alumni Hall.

Host Navy faced Pittsburgh in the second game of the night.

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Alabama, which sits just outside the Top 25 in the Associated Press preseason poll, didn’t look like it belonged anywhere near the rankings for the first 25 minutes of play.

But a Donta Hall dunk with 16:24 left tied the game at 43-all and sparked a 16-4 Crimson Tide run that turned the tide. Galen Smith capped the run with a slam dunk on a follow shot to give Alabama a 57-47 lead with 11:54 left.

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A 3-pointer by Avery Johnson Jr., the son of the Alabama coach, capped a 10-0 run a little later and pushed the lead to 17 points.

Alabama sophomore Dazon Ingram wound up leading all scorers with 20 points, 11 of them from the line. Johnson added 13 and Herbert Jones, a freshman, added 12. Junior Donta Hall had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for Alabama.

“We fouled too much, we didn’t take care of the ball — it looked like our first game,” said coach Avery Johnson. “But the guys’ hearts were in the right place and they played hard.”

Alabama was without four key players, including injured seniors Riley Norris (hip) and Ar’Mond Davis (knee). In addition, Key Braxton, the top returning scorer (12.0) and rebounder (5.7) is out another month after minor knee surgery. Freshman point guard Collin Sexton, a consensus top 10 player nationally, was unavailable because he was serving a one-game suspension.

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Memphis, meanwhile, didn’t have much in the way of continuity to disrupt. Coach Tubby Smith had 11 newcomers this season — including five junior college players and five freshman. The Tigers have just 22.4 percent of their scoring back from last season, just 17.9 percent of their rebounding.

During the early stages of the game, it was clear that the players couldn’t tell the players without a scorecard, much less the fans.

Alabama grabbed a 38-36 lead at the break after falling behind by eight point early during one particularly ragged stretch. Alabama shot just 41 percent in the first 20 minutes and committed 20 fouls, but managed to grab the lead because Memphis shot just 37.5 percent in the first 20 minutes.

Memphis also failed to take advantage at the line, despite being in the double-bonus with less than eight minutes elapsed. The Tigers went just 12 for 21 from the line in the first half.

If it weren’t for Ingram (12 points) and Memphis’ Kareem Brewton Jr. (11 points) in the first half, there’s no telling how ugly the game might have become.

Kyvon Davenport wound up leading Memphis with 15 points and Brewton added 13.

“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” said Smith, who watched his team go 2 for 17 from 3-point range.

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