By DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Taking a cue from the unbeaten Alabama football team, Crimson Tide basketball coach Avery Johnson found a way to win with a depleted roster.
Dazon Ingram scored 20 points, and short-handed Alabama used long-range shooting to beat Memphis 82-70 on Friday night in a season opener at the Veterans Classic.
The Crimson Tide were without injured starters Braxton Key (knee) and Riley Norris (hip), two of the team’s top three scorers from last year. Also missing: reserve guard Ar’mond Davis and highly touted freshman guard Collin Sexton, who served a one-game suspension levied by NCAA.
None of that mattered to Johnson, who used nine players — eight of whom went at least 11 minutes.
“We’ve got a great role model on our campus with our football team,” Johnson said. “When something happens, it’s next man up, and they’re still getting the job done. It’s not always pretty, and this wasn’t necessarily pretty tonight. But we were trying to finish the game with one more point than our opponents.”
Donta Hall had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Crimson Tide, who outscored Memphis 44-34 in the second half after committing 20 fouls and 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
“We didn’t get off to a great start. We fouled too much, we didn’t take great care of the ball,” Johnson said. “It looked like it was our first game.”
Alabama went 11 for 27 from 3-point range; the Tigers were 2 for 17. Herbert Jones and John Petty each connected twice from beyond the arc for the Crimson Tide during a 16-4 run that turned a 2-point deficit into a 57-47 lead.
A 3-pointer by Avery Johnson Jr. made it 68-51 with 7:37 left.
Alabama’s depth was tested after starters Daniel Giddens and Jones, along with reserve Galin Smith, each picked up three fouls in the first half. Through seven players finished with at least three fouls, only Smith garnered five.
Memphis coach Tubby Smith launched his 27th season as a head coach with only two letterwinners from last season, tied for the fewest in Division I.
Yet, the Tigers held the lead until Hall began the pivotal run with a dunk and Jones popped a 3-pointer to put Alabama ahead for good.
Kyvon Davenport had 15 points and 11 points for Memphis.
“We just couldn’t make shots, and our defense struggled,” Smith said.
The first meeting between Alabama and Memphis since 2005 was followed by Pittsburgh versus Navy in this annual event at the Naval Academy.
Memphis: The Tigers are young, and it’s going to take some time for them to become a cohesive unit. Though this loss surely stings, it’s merely the first step in a long season.
Alabama: Unranked in the opening AP poll, the Crimson Tide received the 26th-most votes and could gain entry with this gritty victory.
Playing a big-time school to open the season, Memphis put on a dud of a performance — committing 17 turnovers compared to seven assists.
“We shared the ball before, but you get on the big stage like this, now we know how they react in the spotlight,” Tubby Smith said. “Now maybe they’ll understand what we’re trying to teach.”
Both coaches and many of the players will never forget their tour of the Naval Academy before playing in this game.
“We got invited to this event two years ago and I thought it was a no-brainer,” Johnson said. “To spend time on the campus was an amazing experience for our team. There are a lot of takeaways from what we learned here over the last 48 hours.”
“I have a lot of respect for the young people that will be leading our country, and the training that goes into it,” Smith said.
Memphis: Hosts Little Rock on Tuesday night.
Alabama: Home opener against Lipscomb on Tuesday night.
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