PITTSBURGH – The Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball team tonight won its first NCAA tournament game since 2006, downing Virginia Tech in the first round of March Madness, 86-83.
Both teams started out red-hot, especially from behind the 3-point stripe. A Colin Sexton banked-in trey from the left wing gave the ninth-seeded Crimson Tide an early 7-3 lead, but seven straight points by the eighth-seeded Hokies gave them a 10-7 lead. Later on, a John Petty three put Alabama on top, 16-15. After a P.J. Horne layup gave Virginia Tech a 17-16 lead, trouble brewed for Sexton as he picked up an offensive foul, his second of the game, with 12:22 remaining in the first half and was forced on the bench.
But led by Avery Johnson Jr., Herbert Jones and Dazon Ingram, the Crimson Tide took a 25-24 lead on a Johnson and-one with 9:29 remaining in the half. The Hokies, though, went on a 10-4 run and it ended with a Justin Robinson trey to give them a 34-29 lead. Galin Smith and John Petty played big off the bench for coach Avery Johnson later on in the first half as six points by the former and two treys by the latter, including one just before the half ended, cut the deficit to just two at 43-41. The Hokies shot more than 61 percent in the first half to the Crimson Tide's shot 59 percent.
The second half started out badly for the Crimson Tide, foul-wise, as Braxton Key (3), Ingram (4) and Donta Hall (4) quickly got in foul trouble, but Sexton started to get it going offensively as he scored four straight points and Petty drilled two treys and a pair from the line to continue his red-hot shooting in the game, giving the Crimson Tide a 55-52 lead. The game stayed close throughout the rest of the half and after a free throw by Kerry Blackshear Jr. gave the Hokies a 64-63 lead with 8:07 remaining in the game, their last lead of the game, Jones gave the Crimson Tide the lead on a layup, then Johnson and Sexton scored the next five points to increase Bama's lead to 70-64. After the Hokies cut it to two, Petty drilled a deep trey with the shot clock winding down to make it a 75-70 game with 2:08 remaining in the game, and Sexton scored nine of the final 11 points from the free-throw line to give the Crimson Tide their first NCAA tournament win since 2006. 86-83.
After being held to just three points in the first half due to foul trouble, Sexton went off in the second, putting up 22 points to finish with 25 for the game and he chipped in with three rebounds and six assists. Petty was red-hot from the 3-point line, hitting six for the game, and he wound up finishing with 20 points, three rebounds and three assists. Hall ended up with 10 points, three rebounds and a steal. Ingram finished with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Smith ended up with eight points, three rebounds and a block. Johnson Jr. also finished with eight points and added an assist. Johnson chipped in with six points, four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. Alabama ended up shooting 60 percent from the field and 44 percent from the 3-point line; they out-rebounded the Hokies, 26-22 and they got 19 assists out of 30 made field goals.
The Tide improves to 20-15 overall and will face the no. 1 seed, Villanova, on Saturday at 11:10 a.m. on CBS.
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