Trevor Lacey nailed a 3-point shot at the buzzer to give Alabama a hard-fought, come-from-behind 70-67 victory over South Dakota State in the opener for both teams.
With the contest tied 46-46 with 9:41 left, Alabama built a 60-53 lead, but the Jackrabbits fought back to tie the game 67-67 with 28 seconds left, setting up Lacey's dramatic shot.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant said that a play designed for Rodney Cooper was the first option for the last shot. "I was the screener. The way they defended it left me open off the pick," explained Lacey. "I just had to make a play."
"When the ball left Trevor's hands, I knew it was going to go in," Cooper said. "I was confident it was going to go in."
Alabama had four double-figure scorers, led by Trevor Releford with 18 points. Cooper added 17, Lacey 15 and Andrew Steele 11.
Nate Wolters fired in a game-high 30 points, including five of six 3-point shots, to lead South Dakota State. Jordan Dykstra had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Jackrabbits.
Wolters, a senior guard who last year was the only player in NCAA Division I to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists a game, was disappointed. "You never want to lose a game like that. He had a tough shot."
The Jackrabbits jumped out to a 13-point lead, 29-16, on a 3-point shot by Brayden Carlson with 4:14 left in the first half. Alabama responded by scoring the last 11 points of the half to cut the lead to 29-27 at intermission.
"This was a great game tonight, a great way to open the season," said Grant. "We got in a hole. Our effort on the defensive end got us back in the game.
"We were fortunate that we had the ball at the end (to take the last shot)."
A layup by Releford with 11:06 remaining in the game put Alabama ahead 42-41, the Crimson Tide's first lead since being in front 3-2 in the game's opening minute.
"We're not looking for any moral victories," South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy said. "It was very disappointing, quite frankly. .We didn't shoot the ball like we normally do. We just had too many experienced players play like they were inexperienced.
"(Alabama's) pressure bothered us. I didn't think it would bother us as much as it did, but it did. We just completely fell apart and let them back in the basketball game."
The game was part of the 2012 2K Sports Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.