No. 25 Alabama Men’s Basketball Edges UT Arlington, 77-76, in Back-and-Forth Battle
The No. 25 ranked Alabama Men’s Basketball team edged UT Arlington, 77-76, behind freshman Collin Sexton’s 29 points on Tuesday night in Coleman Coliseum.
"This is a great win for our program and team,” said head coach Avery Johnson. “In the past, there were a lot of times we were disappointed sitting here at this podium talking to (the media). By any stretch of the imagination it wasn't pretty, but we did whatever it took to win the game. We had a couple of breakdowns in the first half, but we changed some stuff at halftime. We had much better effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor against a really good UT Arlington team that's, barring any foreseen circumstances, going to make the (NCAA) tournament. They're probably going to win their league. They've got two of the best players in their league in (Erick) Neal and (Kevin) Hervey, who can play anywhere in the country.
“These two young guys (Donta Hall and Collin Sexton) had an amazing game for us in different times, and we're just awfully proud of our team.”
Sexton made history as he became the first freshman in the modern era at Alabama to have scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games. The last time the feat was accomplished, freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team as former standout Charles Cleveland scored 20-plus points in each of his first three games with the Alabama freshmen team at the start of the 1971-72 season.
The Crimson Tide (4-0) was led defensively by freshman Herbert Jones who had four steals, drew four charges and collected nine defensive rebounds to go along with seven points and three assists. Junior Donta Hall added eight points, along with five boards and two blocks, as did freshman John Petty and junior Avery Johnson Jr.
Sexton scored the Tide’s final five points down the stretch, and made the final play on defense to claim the victory. After Alabama led by four, 77-73, with 19 seconds left, UT Arlington’s Erick Neal drilled a three to make it a one-point lead. The Tide was called for a five second call and turned the ball over, setting up the final play of the game as Sexton’s defense forced UT Arlington into a contested shot that fell short on the final play of the game. Alabama forced 18 turnovers and held the Mavericks to 39 percent shooting in the second half.
UTA started the game red-hot, hitting eight of its first 10 shots from the floor to begin the game and jumped out to a 17-7 lead.
Alabama responded and cut the UT Arlington lead to four at the 13:47 minute mark after a three-point play by Sexton, but the Mavs continued to use a balanced attack grabbing their largest lead of the game, 44-32, with 4:17 left on the clock. Alabama used a late-half rally down the stretch, shooting 5-of-7 from the field to trim the deficit to 46-41 going into the break.
The Tide continued to cut into the Maverick lead in the second half, tying the game at 51-51 after Sexton’s two free throws with 14:15 remaining. Two minutes later, Alabama took its first lead of the game after Johnson drilled a three-pointer at the 12:12 mark to put UA up 54-53. Later in the half, the Tide defense turned up the pressure by forcing four turnovers in four minutes to open up an 8-0 scoring run, and giving Alabama the 66-60 lead with 6:38 left in the game.
The Mavericks answered by using an 8-1 run to shrink Alabama’s lead to 72-71 with 2:13 left on the clock. Down the stretch, it was Sexton again who came up clutch, knocking down two free throws and a jumper inside the paint to give the Tide the 77-73 advantage with 30 seconds left in regulation, setting up the final sequence of events.
The Crimson Tide will hit the road and return to action against BYU on Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. CT in Brooklyn, N.Y. The game will be part of the Barclays Center Classic and can be viewed on Stadium TV via Facebook Live.