MBB | Alabama keeps dancing behind a balanced attack

Men’s basketball will advance to the Round of 32 after a tough battle against Iona.


Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Alexander Plant | @aplant63, Sports Editor

Alabama men’s basketball looked disaster directly in the face with 12:12 left in the second half. The No. 2 seed Crimson Tide trailed the No. 15 seed Iona Gaels 42-40. Not much had gone right from the opening tip. 

But momentum completely swung in Alabama’s direction from that point. The team closed out Iona 28-13 and went on to win 68-55. The Crimson Tide will move on to the Round of 32 and will face either Maryland or Connecticut. 

“Definitely not one of our better games,” Coach Nate Oats said. “Got to give Iona a ton of credit. I thought their kids came ready to play. They’ve got some good players. Obviously, Coach Pitino had them well prepared.”

After the game, senior forward Herb Jones said that a speech he made at the 10:00 timeout led to the game-winning run for Alabama.

“I told them, ‘There are a million kids that want to be here right now. Go out and have fun, embrace the moment,’” Jones said. “I feel after they listened to what I said, I think that’s when we went on that run.”

During the late push, Alex Reese hit two threes: one to put the Crimson Tide up for the rest of the game and one to expand the lead to six. Jones followed up the second three with a steal and an emphasis dunk. Shortly after, legendary head coach Rick Patino took a timeout for Iona to try and slow Alabama’s run. Jones said that Reese’s threes were the keys to Alabama’s run.  

“We always knew Alex was a great three-point shooter,” Jones said. “His percentage doesn’t show it, but we always knew how well he can shoot the ball. We kept telling him to be confident in his shot. It showed up today in a big way.”

Reese gave up his starting spot this year to give Alabama more depth off the bench. Most of his stats have taken a step back, but the shots that he made Saturday were the biggest of his career. Oats sang his praises on both sides of the ball.

“I couldn’t be happier for a kid,” Oats said. “I think he’s just had a great attitude all year. I thought he was great defensively tonight for us. I couldn’t be happier for Reese.” 

The low point of the day for the Crimson Tide was senior forward John Petty Jr.’s play on offensive. Petty shot three of 13 from the field and three of eight from the free-throw line to go along with four turnovers. Petty was visibly frustrated after missing several shots, but he didn’t let his struggles affect his effort. 

Petty played lockdown defense the entire second half. He held both Iona guards Asante Gist and Isaiah Ross scoreless in the second half while guarding them. Oats said after the game that Petty needs to relax in the next game.

“He’s just got to settle down and quit putting pressure on himself,” Oats said. “I mean, I thought he played really hard. He won the hardhat award. He had more blue-collar points than anybody. He was all over the glass. He led us in rebounding with seven. He wants to win at a high level.”

Jones led the team, especially toward the end of the game. Like many others throughout his career, Jones took over the game on both ends of the floor. He finished with a game-high of 20 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Oats after the game could not say enough about what Jones has meant to the program as a whole. 

“Herb is kind of the lifeline, to be honest with you,” Oats said. “He just shows up to work every day, shows up to play hard. He shows up and makes winning plays every day. His leadership has been great. The culture has changed a lot in the two years we’ve been there. He’s been at the heart of that culture change. You can’t sing his praises enough.”