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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama used some subtraction for addition to overcome Arkansas State 67-52 Wednesday night in the Rocket City Classic.
The Tide's Jimmie Taylor came off the bench to score 12 points and Arkansas State went over seven minutes in the second half without a field goal to enable Alabama to cruise to the win.
Braxton Key added 11 points and seven rebounds and Dazon Ingram scored 10 for the Tide.
After Alabama dropped three of its last four and with coach Avery Johnson spending what he called a few sleepless nights, he ordered a drastic change.
"We scrapped half our playbook and simplified a lot of things," he said after his team improved to 6-5. "We went with the meat-and-potatoes. . We have about 20 offensive sets but we stayed with three, four or five tonight. We're trying to get really good at something."
"We played a little faster and I think that helped us out a lot," said the Tide's Braxton Key.
Deven Simms led Arkansas State with 15 points and Devin Carter scored 14. The Red Wolves, with a six-point victory at Georgetown on Nov. 17 on their resume, are 9-3.
The Rocket City Classic, a neutral site game in front of a sellout crowd at Von Braun Center, was only the second meeting between the two, with Alabama winning by 24 in a 1969 game in Tuscaloosa.
The Red Wolves were in control early, with a 7-0 first-half run producing a 16-11 lead. But a flagrant-1 foul called on Arkansas State's C.J. Foster, attempting to block an Ingram layup, switched momentum toward the Tide. A Shannon Hale 3-pointer put Alabama ahead 21-18 at the 5:59 mark and the Tide never relinquished the lead.
Carter sank a layup and converted a free throw for a 3-point play at 11:30 of the second half, moving Arkansas State to within five, 44-39.
But, as Arkansas State coach Grant McCasland said, at that point "it unraveled on us and they made a few shots that really mattered."
A series of turnovers, poor shooting and increased Alabama defensive pressure led to the offensive struggles. By the time Simms ended the streak with a 3-pointer, Alabama was comfortably ahead 57-44.
Alabama, after shooting a dismal 37 percent in the first half, was 15 of 30 in the second while Arkansas State made only 9 of 32 shots in the second and finished at 33.9 percent for the night.
"We were kinda sputtering, but when the crowd got behind us in the second half, we took off like a rocket." — Alabama coach Avery Johnson
Alabama: The Tide had a season-high nine blocked shots, four of them by Donta Hall. Said Arkansas State's McCasland, "Their physicality around the rim really took its toll on us."
Arkansas State: The Red Wolves entered the game No. 24 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 40.6 percent, but was 4 for 16 on treys against the Tide.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES
Arkansas State's Devin Carter made 10 3-pointers in a victory over Tennessee-Martin a week ago. Alabama held the Red Wolves' sharp-shooter to 0 for 6 on treys.
Alabama: Hosts Stetson on Dec 29 in its final nonconference game before opening SEC play on Jan. 3 at Mississippi State.
Arkansas State: Visits Minnesota on Dec. 23, the Red Wolves' fifth consecutive game away from home.
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