After starting the game 1 of 5 from the floor, the five-star freshman scored 22 second-half points to lead the No. 9 seed Alabama to an 86-83 win over No. 8 seed Virginia Tech. For a player that averaged less than 20 points per game during the regular season, Sexton is averaging 25.4 points per game since the SEC tournament got underway last week, and after seeing him lead the way for Alabama over the Hokies, Villanova better be prepared for what should be a hard battle. Petty, mired in a serious slump near the end of the regular season, finished with 20 points while making six of eight 3-pointers, including three in the first half to help the Crimson Tide hang around until Sexton got going. Though Alabama has Donta Hall and John Petty to make the difference, Sexton will have to play his best game to survive this game against a tough opponent.
Alabama (20-15) plays top-seeded Villanova (31-4) at 11:10 a.m. on Saturday after the Wildcats decimated 16th-seeded Radford 87-61 earlier.
Both these teams have shown a capability to beat good teams during the season, and that experience will be needed in this opening-round matchup.
The Crimson Tide rank 156th in three pointers allowed per game (21.8) while the Hokies rank 297th (25.8). After Virginia Tech answered with a jumper, Sexton hit a turnaround jumper to once again put Alabama up by five. 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.
Alabama was led, as usual, by its star point guard Collin Sexton.
Sexton had just five points with five turnovers with 15:59 remaining in the game.
That victory over the Aggies sent Alabama from the wrong side of the bubble into the NCAA Tournament, while their victory the next day over Auburn improved their seeding to a No. 9. The line has yet to be released however, I'm initially leaning towards taking Villanova as long as they are not favored by more than double-digits.
Alabama ranks 10th in blocks per game (5.5) while Virginia Tech ranks 221st (2.3).
After a Virginia Tech turnover, Alabama backup Avery Johnson Jr. made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 66-64. Sexton was 7 of 14 from the field and 9 of 11 from the free throw line. For Williams and the Hokies, it wasn't.
Even as Virginia Tech pulled back within two on a layup by Nickeil Alexander-Walker, even as it swarmed Sexton at every turn in the final minutes, its defense couldn't come up with the critical stops that had been integral to its late-season run.
Rebounding is an issue for the Hokies as we've mentioned in our By The Numbers preview of tonight's game. A win in the NCAA Tournament and a potential 1-seed upset would be a good stepping stone.
An No. 8 vs.
Petty's shooting was critical, especially in the first half.
Hokies senior guard, Devin Wilson is a Pittsburgh product, who was one of the most decorated high school athletes to come out of the Steel City.