Herbert Jones scored a game-high 20 points, leading second-seeded Alabama past 15th-seeded Iona 68-55 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Jones made 8 of 15 shots from the floor and was 4 of 4 on free throws. He also had six rebounds and a game-high three steals.
Alabama (25-6), which entered as a 17-point favorite, got 23 points from its bench, including 11 from Jahvon Quinerly. The Crimson Tide also survived some poor foul shooting (13 for 23, 56.5 percent).
But the Tide, ranked fifth in the nation after winning their seventh SEC tournament title, won the rebounding battle 42-26, including 13-6 on the offensive glass.
Iona (12-6) was led by Isaiah Ross, who had a team-high 19 points on 8-for-18 shooting. Teammate Asante Gist had 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting.
The Gaels, in their first season under legendary coach Rick Pitino, were trying to accomplish a rare feat in program history. But with the loss, the Gaels are 1-14 in NCAA Tournament play, with their only win coming in 1980.
Pitino, who has taken seven teams to the Final Four while winning two national championships, helped the Gaels win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, earning automatic entry into the NCAAs. He is the third coach to take five different programs to the tournament, joining Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith.
Alabama was without Josh Primo, who missed his third straight game due to a knee injury.
Early on, there were four lead changes before Iona closed the first half on a 7-0 run, going into the break trailing 33-32.
Alabama had an 11-0 run in the second half, extending what had been a slim lead to 58-46 with 7:51 remaining.
Iona battled back, cutting its deficit to 62-55 following a Gist jumper with 2:04 left in the game. However, the Tide scored the game’s final six points.
For the game, the Crimson Tide shot 47.2 percent from the floor, including 5-for-16 on three-pointers (31.3 percent).
Iona shot 39 percent from the floor, including 5-for-23 on three-pointers (21.7 percent).
–Field Level Media