STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — When Pat Chambers needs his best player to pick up the pace on defense, he doesn’t need to ask.
Lamar Stevens just does his thing.
Penn State’s leading scorer drained 13 of his 18 points in the second half, grabbed 11 rebounds and added five blocks and two steals to lead Penn State to a 73-71 win over Alabama on Saturday.
“The fact that your best player wants to play defense at all is fantastic,” Chambers said. “He became a dominant player the last four minutes.”
Curtis Jones scored 18 points, Myreon Jones added 17 and Mike Watkins grabbed 10 rebounds for Penn State (9-2), which trailed 40-34 at halftime.
Before that, Alabama took its biggest lead of the afternoon, 52-43, on a Herbert Jones layup with 14:53 left.
But Penn State came back with a 14-5 run that featured six points from Curtis Jones and a 3-pointer from Myles Dread that made it 57-all just over three minutes later.
“We definitely looked sluggish in the first half," Chambers said. "We were trying to catch up to them and we’ve got speed ourselves.”
Galin Smith reclaimed the lead for Alabama with a pair of tough inside baskets, but Penn State got nine points from Stevens over the next 9:58. They fueled a 16-10 run to the finish for Penn State before Watkins came up with a block and steal on back-to-back Alabama possessions with less than a minute to play.
The Tide had a chance with five seconds left to in-bound the ball, but couldn’t get a clean shot off.
James Bolden scored 15 points and Alex Reese added 12 for Alabama (4-5).
“I thought our guys gave an effort deserving to win for 32 minutes and we just kind of ran out of juice,” Alabama coach Matt Oats said.
Alabama’s leading scorer Kira Lewis struggled to find any rhythm and finished just 3-for-18 from the floor including 1-for-8 from 3-point range.
Lewis entered the day averaging 18.6 per game.
“I don’t think Kira will go 3-for-18 again,” Oats said. “That obviously hurts.”
BANGED UP ‘BAMA
Oats was understanding when he acknowledged his team fading down the stretch.
Three of the team’s best players have been nursing different ailments, including Herbert Jones, Reese and Bolden.
“We’re trying to get them through games,” Oats said.
THE OTHER JONES
Curtis Jones posted a season-best in points and did so off the bench to give the Nittany Lions a boost late in the first half.
He drained Penn State's last three baskets, including two 3s, to keep the Nittany Lions within striking distance.
“I had a hunch on Curtis that he was going to have fresh legs, which he did," Chambers said.
Penn State improved to 11-0 on its home court dating to last season. Its last home loss came on Jan. 31.
The teams combined for 36 fouls with 22 of them committed by the Tide.
Penn State didn't draw a shooting foul until the waning minutes of its last game against Maryland, but made 19 of 26 against Alabama.
Alabama: This was a solid start to a three-game road stretch for Alabama players who weren’t deterred by Penn State’s stingy defense.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had trailed at home just once before this season and were able to recover from a sleepy start to keep their strong first half going.
Alabama visits Stanford on Wednesday.
Penn State hosts Central Connecticut on Friday.