Sexton, Petty lead Alabama by Virginia Tech 86-83

Virginia will face UMBC on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament

Virginia will face UMBC on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament

Alabama won its fifth national title in nine years in January with a second-half comeback over Georgia.

Southern finally ran out of answers in the fourth quarter of their first-round Women's NIT game, and Alabama ran away for a 69-56 victory at Coleman Coliseum. Although the Tide would never relinquish the lead again, VT made some furious attempts.

Collin Sexton led Alabama with 25 points, but it was John Petty's hot shooting that carried the Tide. The Tide also got a huge lift from its bench.

"It was a bad loss, we arguably could have been one of the best teams in the country in the first half and then one of the worst teams in the second half", junior guard Justin Robinson said of the loss. He played 29 minutes and was by far the Tide's most efficient player. The senior guard is second on the Hokies averaging 13.1 points per game, shooting a career high 48.7% from the field, and is only averaging 1.1 turnovers per game. Odds for that matchup will soon be released soon, but a good guess at a preliminary line is that Villanova will be a 10-point favorite against Alabama. It was obvious that whoever could string together a few stops would likely be the victor. As a comparison, Bagley is projected to go No. 2 overall, Carter is No. 7, and Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander are No. 11 and No. 12, respectively. His aggressiveness matched his athleticism and he attacked the paint possession after possession, finishing with 25 points, hitting 10-of-14 free throws while adding six assists.

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Alabama needed all of it. Sexton made some great plays, like he usually does. Since the SEC is being slightly overvalued, the Tide will get a chance to make some noise in March. Alabama responded with a 7-0 spurt, regaining a 36-34 edge when Petty canned a 3-pointer with 3:17 left. The freshman finished 6 of 8 from beyond the arc and hit a buzzer-beating 3 at the half to cut Virginia Tech's lead to 43-41.

So now instead of getting a possible and-one, as Robinson made the basket, it was Alabama's ball, after it nailed the technical free throw and the Hokies were without their leader. The five-star freshman went into the break with just three points on 1 of 4 shooting. The Tide live to play another day.

Alabama (20-15) moves on to face top-seeded Villanova on Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Things weren't almost as easy for the Crimson Tide, who needed their freshman backcourt mates and a serious uptick in defensive intensity in the late going to advance to the second round for the first time since 2006.

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