TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After a solid first half, the Alabama basketball team reverted to its old inconsistent self in the first four minutes of the second half Tuesday night.
But just when it looked like Alabama was going to struggle once more against an unranked opponent, LSU gave the Crimson Tide the opening they needed, and that lead to an 80-65 beating of the Tigers in Coleman Coliseum.
With a chance to take its first lead with just more than 16 minutes to play, LSU missed two point-blank shots at the rim — a common theme in this contest — and Alabama used the fortuitous break to start an incredible 26-3 run that completely buried the Tigers.
When it was finally over, one of LSU’s longest offensive droughts of the season helped Alabama to a Southeastern Conference blowout and a season sweep of the Tigers.
It happened all too quickly for Will Wade’s team, which trailed throughout the first half and was down 39-30 at halftime after it had an opportunity to go to the locker room with a flourish.
Down six points with 2½ minutes left in the half, Aaron Epps missed a 3-point shot, Duop Reath failed to convert a layup and Brandon Sampson committed a charging foul that led to a 3-pointer by Alabama’s John Petty.
“We had two possessions (actually three) with the ball, but Duop misses a layup on one of their guards and Sampson comes down and charges when he should have hit (Daryl) Edwards in the corner for a 3,” Wade said. “We didn’t make the right plays there. You’ve got to make those plays if you’re going to win on the road.”
The miss by Reath was one of five botched layups by LSU in the first half to go along three other missed shots in the lane, according to the shot chart provided by Alabama.
Still, LSU (14-11, 5-8 SEC) came out strong in the second half and used a 10-3 run to trim the deficit to two before Alabama (17-9, 8-5) responded with a 3-point basket by Collin Sexton.
Just 16 seconds later, Skylar Mays nailed a 3-point basket from the corner while being fouled by Sexton and knocked in the free throw for the rare four-point play to pull LSU to within one at 45-44.
Alabama, which has carved out a 5-1 record against Top 25 teams but sputtered to beat four unranked squads during nonconference play — each by four points or fewer — was suddenly looking vulnerable.
Then came a series of events that eventually spelled doom for LSU.
With just more than 16 minutes left, Mays missed a layup and an attempted dunk following an offensive rebound by Reath rattled in and out of the basket —which allowed Alabama to retain its razor-thin lead.
That changed quickly, however.
Ten seconds later, Sexton hit a basket and Donta Hall made the first of two free throws to make it a four-point game.
Petty then scored five quick points and Braxton Key added four to offset a 3-point basket by Edwards before Hall, a 6-foot-9 forward, poured in nine consecutive points to make it a 23-3 run.
Two of Hall’s baskets in that stretch came on back-to-back possessions on thunderous dunks.
Key capped the barrage with a 3-pointer to make it 71-47 with 7:14 remaining.
“It’s a one-point game and we miss a dunk,” Wade said. “Who knows what happens if we take the lead there. You know that you have to make winning plays.”
Hall, who was sidelined by a wrist injury for Alabama’s 74-66 win over LSU in Baton Rouge on Jan. 13, scored a team-high 20 points and added eight rebounds to lead the Crimson Tide.
He was 8 of 10 from the field to lead an Alabama team that shot 55.1 percent — 58.3 percent in the second half — while LSU hit just 39.3 percent.
“We had no answer for Hall,” Wade said. “Hall just killed us … he had 20 points and probably 14 to 16 of them were on dunks and and-ones. He just behind that defense and absolutely pounded us back there.”
Sexton, who struggled in the first game against the Tigers, finished with 15 points, while Key finished with 12 and Petty 11.
LSU got a career-high 21 points from Edwards in a losing effort, while Mays added 13 points to go with a team-high nine rebounds.
LSU will host Missouri, one of the more improved teams in the league this season, at 1 p.m. Saturday.