ST. LOUIS – A high-profile freshman dominated the headlines after Alabama’s thrilling 71-70 victory over Texas A&M at the SEC Tournament on Thursday.

But along with Collin Sexton’s buzzer-beating heroics, the Crimson Tide got important contributions from two other freshmen in a game that sets up a game against Auburn.

Galin Smith, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Clinton, Mississippi, started for the first time in his career and had eight points and three rebounds against the powerful Texas A&M front line.

Herbert Jones, who played last year at Hale County High School, returned from a concussion that caused him to miss last Saturday’s game in College Station to play 25 minutes. He scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, blocked two shots and recorded three steals.

“I thought we obviously needed a presence inside to try to make difference, work a little bit on defense,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said of the decision to start Smith. “If you look at (Tyler) Davis, he had seven points today, compared to the way he beat up on us at A&M (when the Texas A&M center scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds.) We thought that even if we lost the rebounding game, which we did, we thought Galin could play a little more defense inside, and then it freed up Donta (Hall) to come and help us on the weak side.

“When we played them at home the first game (in December) that lineup with Donta and Galin playing together had a pretty decent plus-minus so we went with it.”

The addition of Jones also helped UA on the defensive end, although he did get lost on a screen on the Aggies’ late 3-point basket by T.J. Starks.

“Herb Jones makes a difference for us,” Johnson said. “It’s not always glitz and glamour. Obviously, Collin’s going to get a tremendous amount of credit. It’s going to be probably one of the Top 10 plays on ESPN, but Herb Jones does a lot for us. There are not many teams in the country that can get a player back for a tournament game the caliber of Herb Jones. Six points, two blocks, three steals — he does a lot for us.”

At least one Alabama freshman struggled on Thursday as John Petty did not score, going 0-for-5 from the floor in 25 minutes. Petty scored 27 points, including eight 3-pointers, in Alabama’s 76-71 win against Auburn in January.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.