Game Recap (Men’s Basketball): #1 Villanova vs #9 Alabama
By: Michael Hamby
Here at PPG Paints Arena for round two of the NCAA tournament, we saw the #1 Villanova WIldcats taking on the #9 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide won a thriller on Thursday night, beating #8 Virginia Tech 86-83 to get here. The Wildcats on the other hand ran through Radford 87-61 on their way to this game today. The guard play was expected to be stellar, as both teams pride themselves on creative and explosive guards who can take over games.
Early on though, this was not the case as they both came out of the gate slow. At the under 16 media timeout the score was 5-3 Villanova, with both defenses playing fantastic on the perimeter. It was more of the same for most of the next stretch, with Alabama’s Collin Sexton only scoring two points with one assist. The score at the under 12 was 13-12 Villanova. At the under 8 media timeout Villanova led the game 22-15. Donte DiVincenzo had been going OFF in the last few minutes, accounting for 10 points going 3-5 from beyond the arch. This had allowed the Wildcats to overcome their early foul trouble and spark a decent run. Alabama was not going away though, as Collin Sexton continued to do his best to make plays for the Tide. A good run of back and forth between the teams, though neither was making a significant portion of their shots. At the under four media timeout the score was Villanova 26 Alabama 22. Collin Sexton led Alabama with six points and two assists, though he was struggling to hold on to the ball, having committed four turnovers to that point. This would allow Villanova to maintain its lead into the half, despite Sexton scoring three down the stretch, and notching another assist. The Halftime score: Villanova 32, Alabama 27.
Villanova started the second half off strong, coming out to a 9-0 run in the first three minutes. Led by Mikal Bridges, who notched 5 points and an assists during the run. This allowed the Wildcats to set up their half-court press, putting pressure on Bama’s guards and forcing them to make riskier passes. The defensive play was headed by Jalen Brunson, who grabbed a steal and saveda ball from going out of bounds. The offensive onslaught for Bridges continued, as he drained another three 3-pointers, bringing his total to 17 points. This pushed the Wildcats out to a 22 point lead, the score 50-28. Alabama meanwhile had no answer on either end of the court, Sexton and company looked lost in a sea of white jerseys.
Finally, Sexton was able to give the Tide some life, going step for step with Bridges until the under 12 media timeout. Sexton bumped his total up to 13, but Bridges also continued his barrage from downtown, bringing his total to 20 on the day. The score at the under 12 was Villanova 59, Alabama 35. DiVincenzo came back out for the Wildcats, notching another eight points through the seven minute mark in the media timeout. Alabama had for the most part gone dormant at this point, they were taking three and missing pretty poorly, and they just could not grab an offensive board. Bridges hit another three, bringing the score to 67-40 at the under eight timeout. It was more of the same from there on out, Alabama would score a couple, but Villanova could not be stopped. Brunson got in on the action a little for the Wildcats dropping another three to bring his total up to 12.
The final score in PPG, Villanova 81, Alabama 58. Mikal Bridges led all players with 23 points, going 5-8 from beyond the arch. This brings an end to Collin Sexton’s career in Tuscaloosa, notching 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. The Wildcats take on the winner of today’s match between West Virginia or Marshall next weekend in the Sweet Sixteen.