BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The No. 25 Alabama men's basketball team dropped a hard-fought battle to No. 14 Minnesota, 89-84, in the Barclay Classic championship game Saturday night at the Barclays Center.
The Crimson Tide were forced to finish with only three players on the court over the final 10-plus minutes of the contest. Seven Alabama players were ejected for leaving the bench during an altercation at the 13:43 mark of the second half, which left five UA players on the court. Two minutes later, sophomore Dazon Ingram fouled out with 11:37 remaining. Less than a minute later, freshman John Petty went down with an injury, leaving Alabama with three players over the final 10:41 and the Tide trailing 67-56.
However, that's when freshman Collin Sexton and his two remaining teammates turned up the pressure on Minnesota. Sexton put on a show in front of the Barclays Center crowd, as he ended the night with 40 points to become the first Alabama player to score 40 in a game since Reggie King had 43 points against Virginia on Dec. 29, 1978.
Sexton, senior Riley Norris and freshman Galin Smith went on to outscore Minnesota 30-22 over the final 10-plus minutes to give the Tide a chance to win. The three players were able to whittle the lead to just three, 83-80, with 1:39 remaining before the Golden Gophers ended the game on a 6-1 run to close out the victory.
Sexton connected on 12-of-22 from the field, 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and went 12-of-16 from the charity stripe en route to his 40-point night. Norris finished with 13 points, while Smith ended with season bests of 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
"Tough finish for us," Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. "Obviously we didn't have our bench to be able to substitute and to give our guys a blow. It was all about a numbers game but take your hats off to our guys who finished the game, whether it was the four guys initially or the three guys before (John Petty) got injured. They battled, they fought, they made some tough shots, they passed and moved, we got some tip-ins inside, and that's the type of energy and effort we need, especially when we're full strength. I'm proud of our guys, we have a lot of lessons that we can learn from today's game.
"I haven't (encountered a game such as this one). That's a new one right there. It's amazing when you come into a game and you don't expect anything like that to happen. But we didn't make any excuses. We were still in the huddle drawing up plays, trying to solve problems and our guys executed with some of the screening action that we ran to try to get some of our guys free. We tried to punch it inside around the free throw line and use Collin's (Sexton) speed and Riley's (Norris) shooting ability. There was no surrendering our team, and that's the bright spot about today's game."
Minnesota jumped out to an early 11-2 lead over the first 3:22 minutes into the contest and quickly extended its lead to double digits. Momentum started to shift as Alabama trimmed the lead down to 10 at the 10:05 minute mark, but Minnesota used a 7-0 run to lead 30-13 with 6:54 left in the half. The Golden Gophers took a 41-29 lead into the locker room.
Alabama began to rally back into the contest at the start of the second half. After a double technical on Minnesota's Nate Mason at the 14:06 mark, followed by Gopher's head coach Richard Pitino being issued an additional technical foul for arguing with the official, Mason was ejected and Sexton hit 3-of-4 free throws to make it a 10-point game. In the ensuing possession, Norris drilled a three to cut it to seven when the melee occurred forcing the Tide to play shorthanded.
The Tide scored 55 points in the second half despite being shorthanded for a majority of it. Over the final 20 minutes, Alabama shot 53.3 percent (16-of-30) from the floor and 54.5 percent (6-of-11) from deep, but the Gophers were able to match that by going 53.1 percent (17-of-32) from the field and 50 percent (6-of-12) from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.
Minnesota's Jordan Murphy led the Golden Gophers with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Mason finished with a game-high 20 points before being ejected.
Freshman Collin Sexton turned in an outstanding performance at the Barclays Center, scoring 31 points in the second half to total 40 points for the night. Sexton is the first Alabama player to score 40 points since Reggie King had 43 points against Virginia on Dec. 29, 1978.
Senior Riley Norris and freshman Galin Smith also reached double digits, tallying 13 and 10 points respectively.
After trailing by double digits at the end of the first half, 41-29, Alabama rallied back into the contest, shooting 53.3 percent from the floor (16-of-30) and 54.5 percent from deep (6-of-11) in the second stanza to fall just five points short in the championship game.
The Crimson Tide will return to action on Wednesday, Nov. 29 when it hosts Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. CT in Coleman Coliseum. The game will be televised on SEC Network+.