The University of Alabama basketball team needed Kira Lewis Jr. to do everything down the stretch Tuesday night.
He did almost everything.
Lewis scored 30 points but missed two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining, leaving Alabama one point short in an 81-80 loss to Penn in Nate Oats’ first game as Crimson Tide head coach.
“I shot them with confidence, I thought,” Lewis said. “They just didn’t go in.”
“Our guys played hard for the most part,” Oats said. “We’ve got a lot to fix. Sometimes you win (with) all those mistakes and the players think they got away with it.”
Alabama trailed by nine points, 70-61, with 6:43 to play but rallied furiously and took an 80-79 lead on Lewis’ 3-pointer with 19.3 seconds remaining. Penn freshman Jordan Dingle, who led the Quakers with 24 points, answered with a layup that put Penn ahead with 7.5 seconds remaining.
Lewis then pushed the ball down the floor and was fouled by Penn’s Devon Goodman with 2.4 seconds to play but missed both shots.
“I’ve got to go shoot free throws tonight,” said Lewis, who was clearly emotional after the game.
“I pulled him up off the ground, made him look me in the eye and told him we didn’t lose the game because he missed those free throws,” Oats said. “We did a million things wrong. When a game is one point, then it’s everything you did on every possession.”
Alabama was short-handed coming in with no word on Jahvon Quinerly’s waiver and that situation became worse midway through the first half when sophomore forward Herb Jones crashed to the floor and suffered a hyperextended elbow. He played only nine minutes and is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday morning.
After Jones’ injury, Alabama still led by six points, 33-27, with 4:10 remaining in the hard. Penn closed on an 8-2 run, forcing a 35-35 tie at intermission.
The Quakers quickly built a working margin in the second half which they maintained until Alabama’s late rally.
In addition to Dingle’s 24-point effort, Penn center AJ Brodeur had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman Jaden Shackelford had 16 points for Alabama.
The loss was Alabama’s fourth consecutive defeat on its home floor dating to last season.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt