TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama big man Donta Hall started the game with a dunk, and did the same to open the second half.
It was that kind of night for both No. 15 Tennessee and the Crimson Tide.
Hall had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Collin Sexton scored 16 points to lead Alabama to a 78-50 victory Saturday night over the Volunteers, putting a big chill on the Southeastern Conference’s hottest team.
“I saw a level of concentration and tenacity and hunger and feeling unafraid to make mistakes,” Tide coach Avery Johnson said. “And when we did, we just bounced back.
“The focus was there. You could see it during all the timeouts. They were ready to play.”
Alabama (16-10, 7-5) thoroughly dominated the Vols (18-6, 8-4) around the basket and cashed in on a number of fast-break chances
Hall made 8 of 10 field goals and blocked three shots. Tennessee had no answer to Sexton’s quick darts to the basket, and the freshman also had four assists.
He took the ball all the way for layups after a couple of defensive rebounds, the first time sending the ball behind his back to avoid a defender on his way to the basket.
John Petty had 14 points and made 3 of 4 3-point attempts for the Tide. Alabama dominated the second half, 41-23.
Tennessee had only one scorer in double digits. Grant Williams scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. Vols coach Rick Barnes said he was “baffled” by what he called “far and away the worst game we’ve played” coming off a 61-59 road win over No. 24 Kentucky.
“Rough night. I think that with this group, I don’t think I felt that we could be that bad,” Barnes said. “Not to take anything from Alabama because I thought they did pretty much whatever they wanted to do.”
Alabama seemed to be operating at a different speed after leading by 10 at the break, opening the second half with three dunks and a fast-break layup.
“We were just running,” Sexton said. “I feel like when we’re running, we’re just at our best.”
The Vols came in on a six-game winning streak and hadn’t allowed any of those opponents more than 63 points.
Alabama topped that with 10:20 left on, appropriately, Hall’s dunk.
The Tide outscored Tennessee 50-18 in the paint.
The Vols made just 16 of 58 shots (27.6 percent). Alabama made 31 of 56 for a 57.1-percent clip and seven of those were dunks.
“Defensively, as bad as we had played all year long, obviously,” Barnes said.
Tennessee: Fell two games behind Auburn in the SEC race and would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Tigers. Previous five losses had come by a combined 30 points, including two overtime defeats.
Alabama: Has won five straight over Top 25 teams since an early loss to then-No. 14 Minnesota. Continues to be up and down, handling top teams like Florida and the Vols and getting upset other times
PAINT BY NUMBERS
Much of Alabama’s offense came via dunks and drives on a 5-of-14 night from 3-point range.
“We didn’t want to settle for jumpers because we hadn’t been shooting it well,” Johnson said. “So we tried to play from the basket back out to the 3-point line. Give our guards credit for penetrating. Our bigs finished inside and fortunately when we drove we were in the right spots for most of the night.”