PITTSBURGH, PA. – – The No. 9-seed Alabama men’s basketball team edged No. 8 seed Virginia Tech, 86-83, in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday night.
The Crimson Tide (20-15) earned its first NCAA Tournament win since 2006, after defeating the Hokies (21-12). The Tide is now 19-19 all-time in tournament games.
Freshman Collin Sexton poured in a game-high 25 points to go along with six assists, while fellow freshman John Petty was red-hot from beyond the arc, going 6-of-8 from three-point range and finishing with 20 points off the bench. Junior Donta Hall finished with 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the floor and sophomore Dazon Ingram had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win.
“Virginia Tech shot the ball extremely well in the first half from the three-point line,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said.”We couldn’t guard them from three. We had some breakdowns, but those mistakes were correctable. We did a much better job defending them from the three-point line in the second half.
“I’m really proud of our team. This is a new season for us. Our preparation for this game was extremely well, and it was primarily because of their leadership. Obviously, we’re glad, happy, that we’re advancing. We came here to advance. We didn’t come here to just show up. But give Virginia Tech a lot of credit for a hard-fought game. But also I’m really proud of our guys for battling a lot of adversity tonight on the court.”
The neck-and-neck second-round battle saw 10 ties and 10 lead changes throughout, but the Crimson Tide’s three-straight field goals and free-throw shooting down the stretch allowed UA to hang on for the win.
Alabama shot a scorching 60 percent (30-of-50) from the field, including knocking down eight three-pointers in the contest. UA got significant help from its bench, with its reserves outscoring the Hokies bench 36-24, while also outrebounding VT, 26-22 for the game.
The first half was a shootout, as the opening 20 minutes saw four ties and seven lead changes. Alabama shot an impressive 59.3 percent from the field (16-of-27), but Virginia Tech’s 7-of-9 performance from beyond the arc and 68 percent shooting from the floor (17-of-25) gave the Hokies the 43-41 lead at halftime.
The Crimson Tide opened the game by knocking down eight of its first 10 field goals, but the Hokies’ 4-of-5 shooting from the three-point line gave them the 22-20 edge at the 10:43 mark. The teams continued to trade baskets until Virginia Tech dropped five-straight field goals for its largest lead of the stanza, 34-29, with 5:59 left in the half. However, the Crimson Tide answered back with a 7-0 spurt over 1:26 to snatch the 36-34 lead at the 3:14 mark. A Petty three-pointer as the finals second ticked gave the Tide some momentum heading into the locker room.
After a back-and-forth start to the second half, Virginia Tech extended its lead by five, 52-47, at the 14:26 mark in the second half, but Petty scored five-straight points to knot the score at 52 apiece with 13:50 left to play. The two squads continued to exchange baskets until the Tide used a 7-0 run over a span of 2:40 to lead 70-64 with 5:10 left on the clock.
The Hokies pulled within two, 70-68, to force a timeout at 3:13, but Alabama responded by knocking down a trio of field goals and a free throw to lead 78-72 with 1:06 left. After Virginia Tech cut the lead to a two possession game, 78-74, with a minute left, freshman Herbert Jones induced a charge, which gave the Tide the ball back with 48 seconds to go. From there, Alabama would knock down 9-of-11 free throws to seal the win.
Alabama shot 60.9 percent from the field in the second half (14-of-23), tying its season-high set on Jan. 27 against Oklahoma, and outscored the Hokies 45-40 to secure the win.
Justin Robinson led the Hokies’ offense with 19 points, while Justin Bibbs and Nikeil Alexander-Walker both reached double figures scoring 17 points and 15 points, respectively.
Alabama advances to the Round of 32 to take on No.1 seed Villanova on Saturday in PPG Paints Arena. The game will tip at 12:20 p.m. ET/11:20 a.m. CT and will air on CBS.
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