Hare’s jumper lifts Belmont past Alabama, 85-83
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)—For Belmont, it was a no-brainer.
With the game on the line, the Bruins put the ball in Justin Hare’s hands. Hare came through again with a pullup jumper from the free throw line with 2.2 seconds left to beat Alabama 85-83 Monday night in yet another early-season upset by the Atlantic Sun Conference.
It was the 13th time in Hare’s career that he has hit a basket to either win a game or force overtime during his four-year career with the Bruins (4-2).
“It’d be pretty bad coaching if I let somebody else try it,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said.
Belmont watched the Crimson Tide erase a nine-point deficit over the final 5 minutes before pulling out the win. Alabama (2-1) tied it on Mykal Riley’s two 3-pointers over the final 37 seconds, the second coming with 21 seconds left from well above the top of the key.
Then, Hare drove the ball inside the 3-point line for the game-winning shot. Even with his track record, he said he would savor the shot that gave Belmont its first win over a Southeastern Conference team in 13 tries.
“To come in here and beat Alabama, it’s a huge win for our program,” Hare said. “It’s probably going to be one of the biggest memories of my life. I knew I was going to get the ball and take the last shot. Luckily I got a good look and knocked it down.
“I knew there was no pressure, because I knew if missed it was going to overtime. It felt great. I felt excitement running through me. This gave us a bigtime win.”
Alabama got one final chance when Demetrius Jemison heaved an inbounds pass nearly the length of the court. Richard Hendrix tipped it outside to Mikhail Torrance, whose off-balance shot fell well short of the basket at the buzzer.
“We were trying to throw the ball the length of the court to me and hopefully I could see a cutter and make the play,” said Hendrix, who led the Tide with 25 points and 10 rebounds. “The play worked exactly like we wanted. I saw Mikhail out of the corner of my eye and got it to him. We got the shot we wanted, it just didn’t go in at the end.”
Getting 15 points from Hare and Alex Renfroe, Belmont ended its winless streak against SEC teams after only managing to come within single digits in four of those games.
It was another upset for the little-known Atlantic Sun, following Gardner-Webb’s win over Kentucky, Belmont’s win at Cincinnati and Mercer’s victory over Southern Cal.
All three of those teams were ranked at the time of the games, and Alabama has been receiving votes for the poll.
“These games make us better win or lose, and that’s why we schedule them,” said Byrd, whose team has made back-to-back NCAA tournaments. “The real thing is we had the confidence to win this game as it was going on. I don’t think we backed down. They made two huge 3s against us to give their team a chance to win.
“I think we have reached the level where we expect to have a chance to win if the game goes down the wire.”
Dotson finished with 12 points for Belmont and Shane Dansby added 11. Dotson, Hare and Keaton Belcher (nine points) each had three 3-pointers for the Bruins, who were 11-for-31 from long-range.
For Alabama, Riley and Jemison scored 15 apiece while Alonzo Gee had 13 points and nine rebounds.
The Bruins had built their biggest lead of the game, at 78-69 on Dotson’s tip-in. The Tide answered with an 11-2 run to tie it.
Belmont, which was finishing up a six-game road stretch, took a 50-44 lead into halftime after falling behind by seven points in the opening minutes. Renfroe rebounded a missed 3-pointer and scored with 2 seconds left in the half to extend the margin.
“I think we got beat by a really good basketball team,” Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. “They showed tonight why they’ve been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. When we made an error, they capitalized on it. They never lost their composure.
“At the end of the game, we hit a 3 to tie it and you could tell just the veteran experience on their part, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.”