TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Georgia State stormed back from a 22-point second half deficit to knock off Alabama 83-80 on a walk-off 3-pointer from forward Malik Benlevi.
With 25 seconds left, Georgia State (6-3) milked the clock with the game tied at 80. The ball swung around the perimeter until it found a wide-open Benlevi who swished a 3-pointer as time expired. The refs went to the monitor to review it, but it was clear Benlevi got the ball out of his hands in time.
Benlevi was one of four Georgia State players to score in double figures, putting in 16 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Georgia State guard D’Marcus Simonds had a game-high 23 points. Georgia State’s Jeff Thomas and Kane Williams added 14 and 12 points, respectively.
After scoring 31 points in the first half, Georgia State scored 44 in the final 14 minutes to close Alabama out.
“Wow,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “Really, really proud of our kids. What a great win for us.”
Four Alabama players scored in double digits in the losing effort. Freshman guard Kira Lewis Jr. led the Tide with 19 points, including knocking down five 3s on the night. Junior Dazon Ingram had a strong showing off the bench with a season-high 17. Senior forward Donta Hall recorded his third double-double of the year with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while junior forward Tevin Mack started in his first game this season and put in 12 points.
Alabama (5-3) came out hot for the first 20 minutes, shooting 59 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three, making 8 of 19.
The Crimson Tide jumped out to an 18-9 lead. Georgia State cut the lead to five before Alabama used a 17-2 run over a 3:34 stretch to increase its lead to 47-29. The Tide led going into halftime, 52-31.
Georgia State came out sluggish in the opening half, but turned up the defensive pressure in the second. Alabama shot just 29 percent in the second half, making only seven shots and just 2 of 9 from distance.
Georgia State outscored Alabama 52-28 after halftime. The second half saw Georgia State capitalize on a long offensive drought from Alabama. The Crimson Tide was unable to hit a field goal for a span of 9:18 over the course of the second half.
Alabama coach Avery Johnson called it a “tale of two halves.”
“I’m the coach, and I’m the one responsible,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Not the players. It’s me.”
This is the type of loss that can kill a team’s resume when it comes time to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama had a golden opportunity to beat a potential tournament team, but picked the worst time to go cold from the field. That’s now back-to-back tough losses after Alabama lost to UCF in Orlando last week.
For Georgia State, the win is a good boost for the team’s confidence, but even Hunter acknowledged that is doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Hunter said it’s all about getting ready to play in January and February when it’s time for the Sun Belt Conference tournament. The win helped Georgia State rebound from a 78-52 loss at Liberty last week.