For the first time since 2018, Alabama is advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after defeating the Iona Gaels 68-55.

Senior guard Herb Jones was the alpha for Alabama yet again, recording 20 points and six rebounds on 39 minutes of play. 

“I thought he was really locked in,” Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats said. “His leadership is great. The culture has really changed a lot the two years I’ve been here, he’s been at the heart of that change. I can’t say enough about him.”

As has been the trend for Alabama the last few games, the Crimson Tide received huge production from their bench today against the Gaels. Point guard Jahvon Quinerly contributed 11 points and senior forward Alex Reese had two game-changing three-point shots. 

“We always knew Alex was a great three point shooter,” Jones said on Reese. “We kept telling him to be confident in his shot and it showed up today in a big way.”

It was a game of a multitude of lead changes and long scoring runs, but the Crimson Tide got it done. Here is a full recap of how Alabama punched its ticket to the next round of March Madness play.

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First Half

It was primarily a game of long point runs for each team in the first.

Early on, both teams traded buckets until Alabama went on a 7-0 run to lead 17-11 with 14:34 left in the first half. Herb Jones totaled eight points at around the 10-minute mark, leading Alabama to go up 22-14 over the Gaels at 9:06 left in the first. 

The Crimson Tide would be plagued by sloppiness, recording six turnovers in the first 12 minutes and ten total for the half. Despite them leading in fouls for the half, The Gaels came blazing back on a 9-0 run to take the lead at 23-22.

With the help of more Iona fouls, Alabama began another one-sided point run, taking what seemed like a commanding lead 33-25. 

The Gaels would come storming back off of several late Alabama turnovers and brought it within a point going into the half at 33-32.

Jones finished the half with 12 points, in addition to six from Quinerly. John Petty seemed off in the first half, going 1-7 on shots with only five points and contributing to several Crimson Tide turnovers. He would finish the day 3-13 with ten points and just 1-5 on 3-point shots.

Second Half

It started the same as the first for both teams, with the game stuck at a one-possession difference for the better part of the first ten minutes.

Alex Reese broke a 24-minute long Alabama three-point miss streak, sinking a three with 10:46 remaining to give Alabama the lead, 45-42. This would prove to be the momentum Alabama needed 

Quinerly added two straight layups and Reese sunk another huge three to get Alabama moving. After some cold shooting from the Gaels, a Herb Jones steal and dunk would force Iona to burn a timeout down 54-46. 

Alabama would only continue its hot streak after the timeout. With just under seven minutes left, Quinerly threw up a pass for a Juwan Gary alley-oop to give Alabama its largest lead of the night at 56-46. 

A couple more Iona fouls and some solid free throw shooting from Alabama’s bench would give Alabama a 12-point lead at 60-48 with 4:02 left. With under two minutes left, the Gaels would make a valiant comeback attempt, taking advantage of a couple of fouls and a three to make it 62-55. 

A Quinerly layup and a couple of Iona turnovers would put it out of reach for the Gaels, and a Jaden Shackelford made three was the dagger. 

The Crimson Tide would clinch their ticket to the second round to the tune of 68-55.

Alabama now faces the winner of the Maryland vs UConn game on Monday, March 22.