MOBILE, ALABAMA (TICKER) —Bowling Green nearly spoiled Alabama coach Mark Gottfried’s homecoming.
Kenny Walker scored a career-high 25 points as the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide held on for a 72-63 victory over the Falcons in the Coors Classic at the Mitchell Center.
“Coach had been telling me all week to try to face-up my game and it worked for me tonight,” Walker said. “I just came out and played hard.”
Alabama (7-0) used a 21-5 run to open a 58-34 lead early in the second half, but Bowling Green roared back and closed to 66-63 on Kevin Netter’s follow shot with 1:54 left. The Crimson Tide ended the game with a 6-0 spurt.
“I think that our guys decided to start playing the way we are capable of playing instead of acting scared,’ Dakich said. “We handled the ball and moved it around.”
Gottfried played scholastically at UMS-Wright High School in Mobile. His father, Joe, is the athletic director at South Alabama, the host school of the Coors Classic.
“I thought we played well for 30 minutes,” Gottfried said. “I thought we weren’t nearly as aggressive late in the game, but you have to give (Bowling Green) credit. They made a bunch of shots. They were a scrappy team. They didn’t quit when they got down.”
Bowling Green (2-4) stayed close in the first half and but faced a 37-29 deficit at intermission. But the Crimson Tide took control early in the second half.
Alabama’s Erwin Dudley got into early foul trouble and was held without a basket in the first half. Walker picked up the slack, scoring 16 points before intermission.
Dudley finished with just five points on 1-of-6 shooting, but did grab 11 rebounds. Emmett Thomas and Mo Williams each scored 14 points for the Crimson Tide, who shot just under 45 percent from the field (26-of-58).
“I felt at home,” said Thomas, a native of Mobile. “At the shootaround I felt comfortable. All that was important was coming to Mobile and getting a win.”
Leading 66-63 with just three seconds left on the shot clock, Alabama inbounded the ball into Walker in the lane. The officials made a crucial call with 1:17 left, sending Netter to the bench with his fifth foul on Walker.
“It’s hard,” Netter said of fouling out. “Every guy wants to be out there and help their team. I give credit to our guys, they tried and they battled. I just wish we could have come away with a victory.”
Walker made 1-of-2 from the line to make it 67-63. On the other end, Bowling Green’s John Reimold lost control of the ball and Thomas dunked off a feed by Williams to give the Crimson Tide a six-point margin with 47 seconds to play.
Walker was on the bench during Bowling Green’s run in the second half.
“It was very frustrating because I know that coach had to take me out because of my defense,” he said. “I saw my team was down, and I said, ‘Coach, just put me back in the game, and we just pulled out the game.”
Bowling Green’s hopes vanished when freshman Ronald Lewis missed a 3-pointer with 28 seconds to go. Walker added a pair from the line a second later.
Reimold scored 13 points and Cory Eyink added 12 for the Falcons, who shot under 38 percent (23-of-61).