PITTSBURGH – There were no theatrics at the close of Alabama’s season. The curtain didn’t fall with a last-second shot or a classic March comeback.
It fell under a pile of 3-pointers from one of the nation’s best teams. No. 1 seed Villanova (32-4) buried Alabama (20-16) under a pile of 3-pointers for an 81-54 win. Alabama held close for nearly 20 minutes, trailing 29-27 before the final possession of the first half. The second half never left any doubt.
“We just tried to make a run,” freshman guard John Petty said. “But they didn’t miss shots. They kept making and kept making, and there was nothing we could do.”
Villanova strung together a 27-4 run in the middle of the game that began with a 3-pointer just before halftime from sixth man Donte DiVincenzo. He poured in five 3-pointers, all in the first half to keep Alabama at arm’s length. DiVincenzo didn’t score in the second half but his teammates did their part.
Mikal Bridges scored 22 in the second half to lead all scorers with 23 points. Villanova shot 10-for-21 from 3-point range in the second half. Alabama had no chance to keep pace after falling behind quickly.
“We just didn’t have that energy, especially in the second half,” coach Avery Johnson said.
Villanova’s 17 3-pointers were the most ever allowed by Alabama in the NCAA tournament and the most allowed by the team this season.
The Wildcats’ run to start the second half all but eliminated the chance of a comeback. Alabama missed its first six shots after halftime as Villanova took control.
Collin Sexton led Alabama with 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting. He drew a technical foul with 5:21 to go and was pulled by Johnson. He finished the game on the bench with the outcome all but decided.
“He was probably just disappointed,” Johnson said of the technical. “Guys go back and forth sometime but that didn’t have anything to do with the outcome of the game.”
Sexton added four rebounds and three assists but also had five turnovers. When asked about whether he’d enter the NBA draft this summer, he said he was only worried about celebrating the season with his teammates and finishing school this semester.
No Alabama player scored in double digits other than Sexton. Alabama finished the game with walk-ons Lawson Schaffer and Tyler Barnes on the court.
Alabama’s 20 wins this season were the most since Anthony Grant’s 2012-13 team went 23-13 with an NIT run. The Crimson Tide won its first NCAA tournament game since 2006 but fell short of its first Sweet Sixteen since 2004.
Johnson was looking upward and onward afterward.
“When you lose a game, it’s not always losing,” Johnson said. “You can learn, and we learned a lot. We haven’t had in my first two years an opportunity in my introductory speech to the team, I haven’t had an opportunity to show on video what we’ve done in the NCAA tournament. Haven’t had that opportunity. I have such a wealth of resources now because of this two-game experience.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.