ST. LOUIS – Everyone knew Collin Sexton would get the ball. He already had hit one potential game-winning shot, only to have it answered. Now the Alabama star guard would get the ball with only seconds left, and likely an NCAA Tournament berth on the line.
Sexton proceeded to hit the kind of shot that makes regular March Madness reels: He dribbled the length of the court and hit the buzzer beater to lift Alabama past Texas A&M, 71-70, in a stirring finish to a good SEC Tournament second-round game.
“When you’re in the gym, sometimes you just imagine something like that happens,” Sexton said of his play, taking the inbounds pass on one end and hitting a floater in the lane on the other end.
Bama's tourney hopes were on the verge of disappearing.
Collin Sexton would NOT let it happen. pic.twitter.com/L7S5FzlzD4
— ESPN (@espn) March 8, 2018
“Sometimes you’ve got to give really good players the ball. It’s no rocket science,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson would say later.
Sexton hit a leaning floater to put Alabama ahead by 2 with 20 seconds left. But Texas A&M’s T.J. Sparks dribbled down and nailed a left-handed 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.4 seconds left.
Alabama called a timeout. Sexton got the inbounds pass on the left side, dribbled downcourt basically unobstructed, reached the lane and threw up an underhanded shot. It fell through the net as the buzzer sounded, the crowd reacted and Alabama players surrounded Sexton.
“Coach just told me to get to the basket,” Sexton said. “He knows how fast I can get there. So he just said: Get to the basket.”
It was an important win for Alabama, and potentially a very good one for the SEC’s hopes of getting as many teams in the NCAA tourney as possible. Texas A&M appears safely in. Alabama came here needing to do some work to feel comfortable.
It got at least one win, and set up Iron Bowl lite in the first quarterfinal Friday: Top-seeded Auburn awaits.
Alabama is looking for its first NCAA Tournament berth in six years, and only its second since 2006. It would be the first under Johnson, hired three years ago.
This game was a showcase for Sexton, the freshman point guard and projected NBA lottery pick. He finished with a game-high 27 points and 5 assists. One of those assists was a behind-the-back pass on the break early in the game. But his most important contribution was shooting the ball, hitting big shot after big shot.
None bigger than the final one.
“Those types of shots right there, man, turn seasons around,” Johnson said.