PITTSBURGH – Had this been a college football bowl game, fans of both Alabama and Virginia Tech would have been shocked by the lack of commitment to intense defensive play.
In college basketball, however, Virginia Tech likes to push the pace. The Hokies ranked averaged 79.7 points per game to rank 47th in the nation.
Alabama wasn’t nearly as effective at putting the ball in the basket, averaging 72.4 points, still, the Crimson Tide are an athletic team that’s always up for the challenge of a little game of run-and-gun.
Taking into account that Va. Tech is only a mid-level defensive team, this game was bound to play at the pace of a sprint and not a marathon.
Of course, if there is one thing that can slow a warp-speed game to a snail’s pace is officiating, and after calling just 12 fouls in the first half, the refs took the air out of ball by blowing their whistle 11 times in the first seven minutes of the second.
Still, these teams were determined to go back to full throttle, and after a few caution laps, Alabama mashed the gas pedal a little harder and raced to an 86- 83 win on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
Southeastern Conference Co-Freshman of the Year Collin Sexton scored a game-high 25 with six assists while fellow first-year guard John Petty contributed six three-pointers and 20 points as the Crimson Tide won in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
Alabama (20-15) will play top-seed Villanova (31-4) for a spot in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. The Wildcats beat 16th-seed Radford 87-61.
The Tide scored its second-highest total of the season by shooting 60.0 percent from the floor.
Virginia Tech (21-12) got 19 points and seven assists from Justin Robinson.
Each team went about it in different ways, but both blistered the nets for a 43-41 score at halftime.
Virginia Tech attacked for long-range and dropped in 7-of-9 three-pointers (77.8 percent). Justin Bibbs led the way by making three. For the season, the Hokies averaged nine treys a game and shot 38.5 percent from the arch.
Alabama went inside with 11 of its 16 field goals coming from inside five feet of the basket.