The Crimson White

Alabama rallies behind Collin Sexton in thriller with UT-Arlington

Sam MacDonald

Sam MacDonald

Matthew Speakman

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In what felt like a late-season game, Alabama rallied for a 77-76 win over UT-Arlington. The Crimson Tide used defensive intensity and a dominating performance from freshman guard Collin Sexton to flip the script. 

Sexton scored 29 as Alabama came back from being 12 points down to capture the win. The Crimson Tide is now 4-0.

“I feel like when the lights are on, I have to play,” Sexton said. “I have to show up. I feel like everybody on the team was showing up.”

Sexton was big down the stretch. He scored seven of Alabama’s last nine points. For most of those moments, he seemed to take control and want the ball in his hands. Still, his biggest play of the game came on defense.

Sexton was isolated with UT Arlington point guard Erick Neal on the last possession. Sexton locked him down, and forced him into a tough shot that ultimately would not fall.

“I was ready for the challenge,” Sexton said. “In practice, we go over a whole lot of defensive plays. Coach (Avery Johnson) calls it the alley, and if you turn him more than about four or five times, that’s a good possession. I turned him a couple times and got him to shoot a tough shot.”

Sexton and Alabama’s team defense was especially key in the second half. The team had their hands full in the first 20 minutes of the game with UT Arlington forward Kevin Hervey. Hervey had 15 points in the first half on 6-of-6 shooting. He was a big reason why the Mavericks had a 46-41 lead going into the half

Hervey presented a big challenge for Alabama early on.

“It’s part of a fight,” forward Donta Hall said. “It’s part of basketball…He’s a great offensive player. He can score the ball, so I feel like every possession was a big defensive possession.”

The Crimson Tide were ultimately able to shut down Hervey. In the second half, he had nine points, but only scored two in the final 10 minutes of the game. Head coach Avery Johnson said the team had to make a lot of adjustments in the second half on defense.

“We couldn’t get to Hervey,” Johnson said. “We changed our coverage at halftime. We changed our coverage. We changed the lineup that started that game, the second half, they put us in a bind. We went with a quicker lineup and that seemed to pay dividends for us.

Freshman forward Herbert Jones was a crucial part in the increase of defensive intensity. Jones had four steals, nine rebounds and also drew four chargers in the win. He also scored nine points.

Johnson said he’s been impressed with Jones’ development, especially since he’s bulked up from being 178 pounds when came to Alabama.

“Now, he’s 200 pounds and taking charges, guarding multiple guys on the floor, diving on the floor,” Johnson said. “He made a big three for us in the stretch of the game. The stats are blowing me away. I’m proud of Herb. Like all over our guys, he has the right DNA.”

Alabama will play BYU in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Friday, and Minnesota on Saturday for its next games. It will be apart of the Barclays Center Classic.

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Alabama rallies behind Collin Sexton in thriller with UT-Arlington