INDIANAPOLIS - The No. 5/5 Alabama men's basketball team used an 18-4 second half run to hold off a pesky Iona squad, 68-55, in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. With the victory, the Crimson Tide (25-6) advances to the second round where it will meet the winner between Maryland and UConn.
The No. 2 seeded Crimson Tide held a one-point advantage at intermission, 33-32, in a contest that featured 12 ties and two lead changes. However, with Alabama trailing 42-40 at the 12:13 mark, a Juwan Gary layup followed by an Alex Reese three-pointer put UA up for good and jump started the game-changing run.
Senior forward Herbert Jones led all scorers with 20 points, his third 20-point game of the season, and six rebounds, while SEC Tournament MVP Jahvon Quinerly ended with 11 off the bench. Guards John Petty Jr. and Jaden Shackelford each contributed 10 points in the victory.
Coach Nate Oats Postgame Comments
"You have to give Iona credit. Coach (Rick) Pitino definitely had them ready to play. They were causing us all kinds of problems. I thought the difference in the two halves was our defense against (Iona guard Isaiah) Ross. We held him to four points in the second half after he scored 15 points in the first half. I thought our turnovers. We had a turnover problem in the first half - we went from 10 turnovers in the first half to only four in the second half so our points per possession went from .89 to a 1.21 in the second half when we quit turning the ball over. When you turn the ball over and don't make free throws, you put a lot of pressure on your offense. The free throws were an issue which hopefully we'll fix. Iona came ready to play. I thought our effort way great. Maybe we had some NCAA first-game jitters, I don't know what it was to be honest with you, but hopefully getting that first game out of the way and getting a win even though we didn't play well will help that."
- Alabama's bench outscored Iona's reserves 23-8 behind Quinerly's 11, while Alex Reese and Juwan Gary each finished with six
- The Tide improved to 2-0 all-time vs. Iona, with the only other win coming on Dec. 29, 1989 in the opening round of the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara, Calif. (won, 78-39)
- UA now has a 20-20 record in all-time tournament contests with Saturday's victory and advances to the second round in consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2018)
- The Tide controlled the inside, doubling up the Gaels scoring in the paint (36-18) and owning a +16 advantage on the glass (42-26)
- Alabama shot 47 percent (25-of-53) from the field and 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) from three-point range while Iona shot just 39 percent (23-of-59) from the field and 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) from three-point land
- The opening stanza featured runs by both teams
- Alabama jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first few minutes of the game before the Gaels took their first lead of the game 11-8 at the 15:23 mark
- The Tide responded with a 14-3 run over the next 6:17 to take its largest lead of the half, 22-14, with 9:06 to play in the first half
- Iona came right back with a 9-0 run of its own to take the 23-22 lead with 5:24 remaining A Herbert Jones dunk sparked a 7-0 run to give the Tide a 33-25 lead, however, the Gaels would finish the stanza by scoring seven-straight points in the final 1:03 to cut the Tide's lead 33-32 headed at intermission
- The Tide dominated the first half boards with 25 rebounds, but turned the ball over 10 times while the Gaels grabbed 13 rebounds with seven turnovers
- The first few minutes of the second half went back-and-forth featuring four lead changes and two ties
- Trailing 42-40 with 12:13 left, Alabama went on an 18-4 run over the next 5-plus minutes to take its largest lead of the game at 58-46 with 6:36 remaining
- Iona added a 4-0 spurt, but that was the closest the Gaels would get as Alabama scored the final six points to move on to the round of 32 with the 68-55 victory
- The Tide shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24) from the field in the second half compared to a mere 38.5 percent from Iona
The Tide will return to action on Monday night when it takes on the winner between No. 7 seed UConn and No. 10 seed Maryland. The time and television designation will be announced later Saturday evening.