Game Recap (Men’s Basketball): #8 Virginia Tech vs #9 Alabama
By: Cale Berger
In the final game of the first round in Pittsburgh, the 8-seed Virginia Tech Hokies squared off against the 9-seed Alabama Crimson Tide. The Hokies came in finishing 7th in the ACC at 21-11. Alabama was one of the hottest teams in the country, winning two games in the SEC tournament behind the stellar play of freshman phenom Collin Sexton.
Both teams traded buckets to start, with the Hockies holding a slim 3 point lead at the first media timeout, 15-12. Sexton was then called for two fouls early in the half, and was forced to sit with just over 12 minutes left with just 3 points on 1 of 2 shooting. They continued to trade fields goals made, as Virginia Tech held on to a narrow lead 22-20 halfway through the first. Alabama briefly took back the lead 25-24 with 9:15 to play on an Avery Johnson Jr. 3-point play. The Hokies were on fire from beyond the arch, knocking down 6 of their first 7 attempts from three. As the teams continued to battle, Virginia Tech was only able to extend their lead to 5. Forward Dazon Ingram nailed a three as time expired to cut the score to 43-41. Sexton was quiet for the Tide, only mustering 3 points on 25% shooting. Freshman guard John Petty came off the bench to lead the Tide with 9, while guard Justin Bibbs went a perfect 4 for 4 to pace the Hokies at 11. Virginia Tech shot 68% from the field in the first half.
After a first half that saw each team shoot extremely well from the field, they both struggled to hit the bottom of the net to start the second. The Tide were also the victims of some questionable calls, as they were called for 8 team fouls well before the second media timeout. Regardless of the lopsided officiating, the squads were still tied at 52 a piece with 13:39 left in regulation. Sexton continued to struggle in the second half, missing two key free throws that would have broken the deadlock. Petty continued to be the offensive focal point for Alabama, tallying 17 points on 5 of 7 shooting halfway through the second. With 7:30 left to play, Alabama led 65-64 after a Virginia Tech errant pass out of bounds. Alabama kept about a 4 point cushion throughout the second half, leading 81-77 with :38 left. They were able to hold on in the end, defeating the Hokies 86-83. Sexton was finally able to get things going for the Tide, finishing with 25 points and 6 assists. Point guard Justin Robinson led the way for Virginia Tech with 19 points. Alabama will face 1-seed Villanova on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.