NEW YORK — Alabama appeared to be in control of the game. The Crimson Tide was hitting 3-pointers and forcing turnovers while building a 15-point lead over Oregon State.
Things changed in a hurry as the cushion started to disappear and the Beavers suddenly started taking care of the ball.
Even though Oregon State was able to tie the game with 43 seconds left, Alabama had one last big play left and it turned into a 65-62 victory Thursday night in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.
Rodney Cooper hit a 3-pointer from right in front of the Alabama bench with 12.2 seconds left to give the Crimson Tide (3-0) the win.
“We were able to get them down in the second half but they were able to fight back,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought our guys did a great job of making plays we needed down the stretch, especially with Cooper hitting the 3 that gave us the game.”
Alabama spread the court for the big shot and ran down the shot clock. Cooper let the ball go with 6 seconds left on the shot clock and it went through. Cooper said the play was just a case of one of his teammates finding him when he was open.
“Trevor (Lacey) came off a screen and he just found me in the corner,” said Cooper, who finished with 12 points. “My teammates have confidence in me to take shots like that.”
Alabama led 52-37 with 12:31 to play on a 3-pointer by Lacey, who led the Crimson Tide with 20 points.
The Beavers (2-1) stopped turning the ball over and took advantage of a shooting slump by Alabama to tie the score at 62 when Devon Collier made two free throws with 43 seconds to play.
After Cooper’s shot, Oregon State turned the ball over with 3.6 seconds left. Cooper missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 3.1 seconds to go, but Oregon State’s final shot by Roberto Nelson at the buzzer was challenged and off the mark.
“This was an opportunity lost,” said Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama. “This might be a lesson for us when we look back at the end of the season.”
Alabama will meet Villanova in Friday night’s championship game. The Wildcats beat Purdue 89-81 in overtime.
Trevor Releford had 12 of his 14 points in the first half for Alabama, which finished 7 of 21 from 3-point range after going 2 of 10 in the first half.
Cooper said his team wanted to make an effort to straighten out its 3-point woes from the first half.
“They gave a lot of help on those shots,” Cooper said. “Coach said to just be tough in taking that shot.”
Collier scored 21 points for Oregon State while Angus Brandt had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Eric Moreland added six points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
“Our frontcourt is pretty darn good,” Robinson said. “We just got started late.”
There were nine lead changes in the final 8:19 of the first half, and a driving reverse layup by Releford gave Alabama a 35-32 halftime lead.
Alabama opened the second half on a 12-2 run as Cooper and Lacey started it with 3-pointers to match the first-half total. The lead reached 15 points as Alabama kept forcing Oregon State into turnovers. The Crimson Tide forced an average of 19 turnovers in their first two games, and Oregon State finished with one more than that.
“You can’t turn the ball over against any team, let alone an SEC team,” Robinson said. “But I loved the way we came back.”
The Beavers were able to make their run by stopping the turnovers. They went 10 minutes between miscues while cutting the lead.
Alabama won its opening game of the season against South Dakota State when Lacey hit a 3 at the buzzer for a 70-67 win.