Fresh off of a thrilling 86-83 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday, the Alabama Crimson Tide took on number one seed Villanova on Saturday morning in Pittsburgh. The Tide hung tough for the first 20 minutes, but got blitzkrieged by a barrage of three pointers in the second half, and got put out of the tournament by the score of 81-58. ‘Bama hung close in the first half, and trailed 32-27 at the break.
Villanova guard Donte Divincenzo was inferno in the first half, hitting five three pointers and scoring 18 points. Collin Sexton had nine at the half to lead the Tide. The Wildcats took 27 first half shots, and 20 of them were from beyond the arc. Villanova was 9-27 from the field, including 7-20 from the three point line. VU also hit 7-9 from the free throw line. The Tide shot better, 11-23 for 47%, but were only 2-6 from the arc, and a terrible 3-8 from the free throw line.
After seeing what Divincenzo did in the first half, Mikal Bridges came out and seemed to say- “watch this.” The Tide got absolutely shot out of the gym in the first several minutes of the second half. Bridges had one point at the break, but hit five straight three pointers and finished the game with 23 points. VU hit their first six shots beyond the arc, while ‘Bama had only one point in the first seven minutes of the half. At that point it was just a matter of would the Tide quit, and how bad would it get. To ‘Bama’s credit they didn't quit, they just didn't play well. Villanova shot 16-36 in the second half, including 10-21 from deep (47%), and a perfect 7-7 from the charity stripe. The Tide was a miserable 9-23 (36%) and 2-10 for 20% from the three point line. The free throw percentage improved to 73%, 11-15.
For the game the Tide had a higher shooting percentage overall from the field 41%-40%, but got killed in three point shooting, 41% (17-41) to 25% (4-16). The Wildcats were also 14-16 from the free throw line for 88%, while the Tide was 14-23 for 60%. VU won the battle of the boards 35-33, and had 18 assists on their 25 made field goals, while turning the ball over only 10 times, adding five blocks and six steals. ‘Bama, per usual, had more turnover-15, than assists-13 on the day. The opportunity to block shots didn't present itself very often due to the lack of an inside game, and the Tide only had three, while gathering seven steals.
Individually no one other than Sexton did much. The mercurial freshman had 17 points with three assists and four rebounds. Sexton finished the season with 632 points, which is third in Alabama history for a single season. The Young Bull averaged 19.2 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 3.7 assists per game, and at least a couple of jaw dropping plays per game. Alex Reese had nine points in only 14 minutes, and Daniel Giddens scored seven points in only 11 minutes. Dazon Ingram had four points, and led the team in rebounds with seven. John Petty, coming off his big game against Virginia Tech, never seemed to get in a groove and was 1-5 for three points. Donta Hall was a non factor with three points and two rebounds in 17 minutes. Lawson Schaffer played five minutes and contributed three assists, with the highlight being a behind the back dime from in the lane to Giddens for a dunk.
There is good reason Villanova is 32-4 on the season, they are a veteran team full of shooters that have been through the wars. The Tide, with one of the youngest teams in the NCAA just couldn't match up or keep up with the Cats.
Next season. After a long absence from March madness, the first step was to get back in the tournament, which this years unit did. Getting in was step one, winning a game was step two, and now it is time for the next step. Depending on what happens with the roster the Tide could very well be poised to do so next season. It is a given, Sexton is gone, a lottery pick and soon to be multi millionaire. Riley Norris and Ar’Mond Davis were the only seniors and they both were redshirted this season because of injury. The first key is for Hall to continue the improvement that he showed. Key two is if Braxton Key returns and rediscovers what ever was missing this year, that would be huge for the Tide. Key three is that Petty needs to realize that he can shoot on the road as well as at home. Key four, Dazon Ingram play under control, for his all around game can stuff the stat sheet. Add Herbert Jones with his defensive prowess, Alex Reese with his three point stroke, Texas transfer Tevin Mack, and another good signing class, led by point guard Jared Butler, and the Tide has the pieces to return, and advance in the NCAA Tournament in year four of the Avery Johnson tenure.
Un Buckle for now, but tighten up next October