TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)Alabama didn’t let Memphis ruin the team’s good mood again.
Brandon Miller scored 24 points, including 21 in the second half, to lead No. 4 Alabama to a 91-88 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night.
Miller hit a 3-pointer and then dunked after rebounding his own miss on the next possession in the final two minutes for the Crimson Tide (9-1), sporting the program’s highest ranking in 15 years.
Most of that nine-point cushion evaporated over the last 70 seconds.
”I thought we should have pulled away and just couldn’t get the stops we needed to,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. ”You’ve got to give Memphis a ton of credit for hanging in there. Shoot, they could have gone away.”
But Memphis never backed down, even when it seemed hopeless.
Led by Kendric Davis’ 30 points, the Tigers (8-3) stayed alive most of the way for a second upset of a Top 10 Alabama team in as many years and closed the gap in the final seconds. Memphis beat No. 6 Alabama 92-78 last season.
”We owed them one,” said Alabama’s Marc Sears, who was playing for Ohio back then. ”They kind of embarrassed them last year, so we’ve got to return the favor at home.”
Alabama had just climbed into the Top 5 after becoming the first team to beat two No. 1 teams – North Carolina and Houston – before January since Duke in the 1965-66 season.
Miller had eight rebounds, five assists and four 3s to help the Tide fight off the challenge this time. Sears scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half and was 9 of 13 from the free throw line.
The game featured 47 fouls, 28 from Memphis.
”Definitely one of our scrappier games,” said Miller, who’s leading the nation’s freshmen in scoring. ”I feel like I’m pretty beat up. I’ve got blood all over me. Memphis is always going to be a scrappy team.”
Noah Clowney, who has won the past two Southeastern Conference freshman of the week honors, fouled out with 11 points and nine rebounds. Fellow freshman Jaden Bradley scored 10.
”I think they disrespected the youth of Alabama, thinking they were going to be easy,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. ”But those young guys can play. They’re pros, all of their freshmen, in my mind and you’ve got to respect them as such.”
DeAndre Williams had 15 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 6:18 left for Memphis. Davis also fouled out late.
Keonte Kennedy made Memphis’s first 3-pointer and his only basket with less than a second left. Damaria Franklin scored six points in the final 25 seconds, wiping out most of a nine-point deficit. It was the Memphis debut for Franklin, who transferred from Illinois-Chicago in late August.
Memphis starting center Malcolm Dandridge was helped off the court with 12 minutes left and didn’t return. Dandridge finished with seven points and eight rebounds.
”Bad ankle sprain, I think,” Hardaway said. ”Probably going to be out for a while.”
Memphis: Flirted with a second straight upset of a ranked SEC team after beating No. 19 Auburn in Atlanta last weekend. Memphis is still 3-1 against SEC opponents this season and came in one spot outside the AP Top 25.
Alabama: Avoided a repeat of last year’s meeting when the Tide was ranked No. 6 before losing to the Tigers.
Guard Nimari Burnett is out 6-8 weeks with a left wrist injury, Oats said. Barnett, who was averaging 7.9 points a game and has nine starts, underwent surgery on Tuesday afternoon in Birmingham.
Memphis hosts Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Alabama plays No. 15 Gonzaga Saturday in Birmingham.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25