PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — The 3s kept falling for James Bolden and Alabama.
Bolden scored 23 points and hit six 3-pointers to help Alabama beat Southern Miss 83-68 in Friday night’s seventh-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, securing a win for the Crimson Tide after losing their first two games.
The West Virginia graduate transfer hit four second-half 3s that helped spark the run that finally put the game away for Alabama on a night when the Crimson Tide (3-4) didn’t miss much.
Alabama jumped out to a 20-4 lead only to squander much of that early margin by halftime. But they shot 72.7% in the second half (16 of 22) and made 8 of 11 3s, finishing the game shooting 53.8% overall and making a season high 15 of 33 3s.
“I said (to the players): to leave here 1-2 with the field we have (in the Bahamas) isn’t the worst thing if we get better and make significant strides, so let’s just get better,” first-year coach Nate Oats said.
Bolden arrived at Atlantis averaging just 5.7 points and shooting 6 of 20 (30%). He had just three points in the opening-round loss to No. 6 North Carolina, but had 10 points in Thursday’s loss to Iowa State before breaking loose Friday against a team picked to finish last in Conference USA.
“I’m adjusting pretty well,” Bolden said. “I kind of had a slow start but that’s what you’re going to have when you switch programs and systems like that. I’m still getting a feel for it.”
Gabe Watson had 19 points to lead Southern Miss (2-6), which got within 38-35 by halftime. Southern Miss shot 49% but first-year coach Jay Ladner pointed to a few bad offensive possessions to start the second half that derailed the Golden Eagles.
“It just kind of gradually got away from us,” Ladner said. “We don’t have the experience or firepower to overcome bad possessions on offense or defense.”
Southern Miss: For Ladner, the mission was to have his players get an up-close look at elite basketball programs in a high-profile tournament. But it was also about having them maintain perspective and confidence amid the likely tough results while getting ready for Conference USA play. They lost big to No. 8 Gonzaga in their opener but kept battling with No. 13 Seton Hall in their second game, then offered a positive sign by fighting back from a big early deficit Friday night.
“It’s tough to get in the win column against the folks we’ve been playing with the type of team we have at this time,” Ladner said.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide salvaged a win in the 12th and final game of the three-day tournament. Sixth-ranked UNC overwhelmed Alabama on the glass to negate solid defense, then Iowa State put up a tournament-record 104 points in the Day 2 loss. That gave Oats a clear to-do improvement list: defense and rebounding.
“We’ve got to get more mature guys that sprint back, take ownership of every single defensive possession,” Oats said. “When we do that, we’re pretty good.”
Kira Lewis Jr. added 20 points for Alabama. ... John Petty Jr., who had 34 points against Iowa State for the No. 2 scoring total in the tournament’s nine-year history, finished with 10 for the Crimson Tide. ... Southern Miss season leading scorer Boban Jacdonmi left at the 6:18 mark after rolling his left ankle. ... Neither team shot it well from the line. Alabama made 12 of 22 free throws while Southern Miss made 13 of 20.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles host Tulane on Wednesday.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide host Stephen F. Austin — which on Tuesday upset No. 1 Duke to end the Blue Devils’ 150-game nonconference home winning streak — next Friday.