Three’s Company (Barclays Center Classic Recap; 11.25.17)

Robert Cole/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


NEW YORK — Outside of something that might take place in a nearby playground, almost no one inside of the Barclays Center on Saturday evening had ever witnessed what took place for the final 10 minutes between Alabama and Minnesota. Even more so, everyone was also close to witnessing one of the most improbable victories in the history of organized basketball.

It would be fair to state that No. 14 Minnesota used a balance attack to defeat No. 25 Alabama 89-84 in the final round of the Barclays Center Classic, as guard Nate Mason paced four Gophers scoring in double figures with 20 points. It also helped that Minnesota played the final 10:41 of the basketball game with a five-on-three numerical advantage, spurred on by a near brawl in front of the Alabama bench in which every substitute sitting on the Crimson Tide bench wandered onto the court, leading to their ejections.

“For 27 minutes we played really good basketball,” said Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said. “For 27 minutes we were a really, really good team.”

The subsequent final 13 minutes were absolutel insanity. The melee started when Minnesota’s Dupree McBrayer and Alabama’s Dazon Ingram shoved each other underneath the basket after Alabama hit a three-pointer, causing the reserves on the Crimson Tide to instinctively leave the bench in an effort to quell the tensions. In doing so, all of the players went onto the court and, by rule, players who leave the bench area and do not participate in the altercation are ejected. That meant that Donta Hall, Alex Reese, Daniel Giddens, Avery Johnson Jr., and Herbert Jones, who all came out onto the court, were thrown out of the game after a review of the incident at the scorer’s table. Just a few seconds prior to that, Mason was ejected after a second technical foul that he was assessed.

Alabama was forced to go the final 13:39 with just the five active players it had on the court at the time of the incident. However, just two minutes later, and with Alabama down by nine, Ingram committed a loose ball foul on Minnesota forward Reggie Lynch that disqualified him from the game with five fouls.

Now officially playing handicapped with just four active players, the Crimson Tide were soon reduced to three when freshman guard John Petty hurt his ankle after coming down awkwardly on a jump shot. He would be helped off the floor by trainers, leaving freshman Collin Sexton, fellow first-year player Galin Smith and senior sharpshooter Riley Norris as the three players who would have to fend for themselves against a quintet that has aspirations of winning the Big Ten Conference.

Somehow, the Tide trio almost pulled it off, as Alabama outscored the Golden Gophers 30-22 after being reduced to three men. Sexton, using a myriad of drives to elude double teams in the frontcourt and find the open Norris for three-point opportunities, ended up with 40 points in the contest, the first Crimson Tide player to score 40 in a game since Reggie King in 1978.

Unfathomably, Alabama cut Minnesota’s once 18-point second-half lead down to three at 83-80 with 1:39 left after a Sexton layup and, after Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington missed a jumper and Sexton grabbed the rebound, the Crimson Tide had a chance to cut the lead to one or even tie the game with a three-pointer. Sexton missed a right wing jumper and Amir Coffey was able to cherrypick down the court after the Gophers grabbed the rebound. Coffey scored on a layup and was fouled by Norris, and any realistic chance Alabama had of pulling off one of the all-time great wins in college basketball history had evaporated.

“I haven’t [encountered a game such as this one],” said Alabama head coach Avery Johnson after the game. “That’s a new one right there. It’s amazing when you come into a game and you don’t expect anything like that to happen. But we didn’t make any excuses. We were still in the huddle drawing up plays, trying to solve problems and our guys executed with some of the screening action that we ran to try to get some of our guys free. We tried to punch it inside around the free throw line and use Collin’s speed and Riley’s shooting ability. There was no surrendering our team, and that’s the bright spot about today’s game.”

Mason did lead all Gophers players with 20 points, including a three-pointer early in the second half after he caused Sexton to lose his balance on a crossover move before rising up for the shot. After the make, Mason stared down Sexton and both were assessed technical fouls. Mason would soon get his second technical foul seconds later and would be ejected.

The Gophers led from start to finish, racing out to an 11-2 lead and went into halftime with a 41-29 advantage. Minnesota moves to 7-0, its first such start since 2008-09, and it includes quality wins away from the Twin Cities at Providence and against the Crimson Tide.

Minnesota will have the opportunity to add another quality win on its already glittering résumé, as they next play at home against No. 11 Miami in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline and story is the photo gallery from Saturday night’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 21 pictures in total.

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