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March 15, 2018
Alabama - 86, Virginia Tech - 83
COACH JOHNSON: First of all, we want to congratulate Coach Buzz, and Virginia Tech on an outstanding season. Those guys are -- they're terrific on the court and off the court. We really have a lot of respect, not just for their basketball team but their basketball program in general.
He preaches a lot about character and competitive spirit. A lot of the same things we preach about. He's a guy that, you know, I consider a friend. He's been very helpful to me in my transition to college. I want to just congratulate him and his team.
They shot the ball extremely well in the first half from the three-point line. We couldn't guard them from three. We had some breakdowns, but those mistakes were correctable. We did a much better job defending them from the three-point line in the second half.
I'm really proud of our team. This is a new season for us. New opportunity and the three men, they used to be kids and boys, but the three men that are sitting up here now, they had a lot to contribute to this victory. Some of it showed up on the stat sheet. A lot of it didn't, because our preparation for this game was extremely well, and it was primarily because of their leadership. So, proud of our team.
Obviously, we're glad, happy, that we're advancing. We came here to advance. We didn't come here to just show up. But give Virginia Tech a lot of credit for a hard-fought game. But also I'm really proud of our guys for battling a lot of adversity tonight on the court.
Q. This question is for, first, Collin. About three minutes left in the game, you came out and called time-out, you were holding your stomach. Was everything else okay there? What was wrong?
COLLIN SEXTON: Yeah, I got hit with a screen. He knocked the wind out of me, that's all.
Q. Collin, what did you think of John Petty's performance tonight.
COLLIN SEXTON: It was great. In practice we told him every time he gets it and he feels like he's open, shoot it, try to make it. I feel like he's getting in the rhythm right now and it's hard to take him out of it.
Q. What helped you guys shoot the ball so well today? And for John and Collin, what helped you do so well from three today? And Collin, what helped you get going there in the second half?
COLLIN SEXTON: Just like Coach said. These coaches prepare us for stuff like this. They do so many hours of film, and they tell us all of the answers to the test. We prepare, we prepare for these and we just shot the ball in practice. Just to make sure we come into this game ready and that's what we did.
JOHN PETTY: And then second half, coach just told me if I got a shot, don't worry, just shoot it and play my game and also my teammates. Like Donta, they kept uplifting me and I felt like it was big.
Q. Guys, 2006, last time Alabama advanced in the NCAA Tournament. What does it mean to you guys to be a part of that, given, I guess you guys were pretty much in grade school last time that happened?
DONTA HALL: It means a lot. We knew we had a chance to do something special this year. We felt we had to put in the work. We were putting in the work since summer. I felt like the work we were putting in is finally paying off and will keep paying off, if we keep working hard believing in our coach.
Q. Collin, this is for you. Talking about Petty, the clutch shooting. We're talking about buzzer beaters.
COLLIN SEXTON: I feel John's three was big in the half, gave us a little bit of momentum. Also, he's been working on it. He's been working. When it's time, it's going to show.
Q. Avery, to follow up on what you said before, when you said you did a better job defending them from three-point range in the second half, what adjustment did you make to make it tougher from three for them?
COACH JOHNSON: We had lazy switches in the first half. An we were shooting out of coverage. We didn't come together and do a good job switching. They were baiting us, we adjusted our pick-and-roll coverage with their five man and we adjusted out pick-and-roll coverage. I don't want to get into too much detail, but I thought our adjustment on pick-and-roll coverage helped us stay in that position.
They hit a three there at the end. But if it wasn't for that one, we really did a better job contesting their three-point shot, but our positioning was better in the second half.
Q. Avery, ten ties, ten lead changes throughout that one. Is that about as evenly matched as a first round NCAA Tournament can be?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah. It probably is. And I just think, especially in our situation, we had six fouls in the first three minutes of the second half, and we were able to weather that storm. Not many teams that get six fouls that fast in the second half are able to hold their opponents off and win.
So for a team that's the fourth-youngest team in the country, now we got to start talking about there are some signs of maturity. Right now, in our last -- in the last three games that Donta Hall has played in, we're undefeated. But also Collin and Petty, Herb Jones, with his defense, Galin Smith, a lot of the your freshman now are turning the corner a little bit, and they know they got to grow up.
This is the perfect time of the season for us, if they don't do what we ask them to do and respond, they know they're not going to advance.
Q. Coach, obviously, Ben Jobe was so close to you, and what do you think he would say right now with you being in this position, getting your first NCAA Tournament win?
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah. My heart was heavy. Thank you for asking that. My heart was heavy for two reasons coming into this game together today. Obviously, my college coach passed away a year ago March 10th. But today, a very, very close friend of mine, Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints, my home-town team, a team which I have a Super Bowl ring because I was a consult and honorary ambassador for the team when they won the Super Bowl. He passed away and he meant so much to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana and so many people.
So we send out condolences out to his wife Gayle and the Saints organization. My heart was heavy for both of those reasons, I was thinking about my college coach and I was thinking about Mr. B.
Q. Avery, three years ago you were hired kind of for a night like this. What have you done to kind of change the basketball culture at Alabama. And then on top of that, what are your thoughts about playing Villanova Saturday?
COACH JOHNSON: I just think it's all about relationships. When I was hired, the one thing we had to do was let's build relationships with our fan base, so whether that's season ticket holders or student -- and we've done that, we sold out more games in the last three years that I think Alabama sold out combined in the 10 or 15 years previous.
So our crowds have been incredible. Great partnership with the administration. We had Dr. Bell, our president here and obviously Greg Byrne, our A.D., and so many people traveled to this game. We had some of our parents, guys, drive 15 hours to get to this game.
I just think because of those relationships, that's where we are where we are today. And then we went out and tried to outwork everybody for recruits. And a lot of these guys that are on our squad *tonight, we got in the trenches with them early on, some like Collin Sexton that nobody ever heard of before we even offered him.
Q. And Villanova?
COACH JOHNSON: And Villanova, what more can we say? Outstanding team. Championship, pedigree. They got problems at every position. Jay Wright's done an incredible job. He's had one of the best coaching tenures of anybody in the country. They know what they're doing. The great thing about Alabama, though, we feel, when we play right, we have a chance to beat anybody. We respect all of our opponents, but we'll go back, watch them on video.
This will be a long night. I normally only average two hours of sleep. I'll maybe sleep 30 minutes and just have a bunch of coffee, but it's a good problem to have.
Q. Coach, you mentioned the guys were boys and now they're men. Just what did they show you specifically down the stretch that really, growth-wise, that really helped them pull this game out tonight?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, number one, they're coachable. All right? Maybe early on, you know, the criticism always, when you were trying to coach him, maybe they thought it was just negative. Now, the coaching is constructive criticism. Instead of them telling me, Coach, get out of here when I tell them something, now they're saying, thank you, Coach. They understand.
I love them all, just like, you know, the one that has my name on the team, who, by the way, A.J. Jr. gave some quality minutes off the bench today. I know the focus would be just on Petty, and his mom who is sitting here in the audience. She'll be happy I mentioned Avery Jr.'s name.
Q. We talked about Petty, but specifically, a lot of good things happened when the ball was in Collin's hands down the stretch. What does it say about his maturity at this stage in his life?
COACH JOHNSON: The main thing is, maybe early in the season with the first half - in the performance he had in the first half, probably would have been average to below average in the second half. But he's maturing, he's growing into manhood. He's accepted responsibility. He's giving more speeches to our team, which is showing leadership, and the team is following him. He's a part of our leadership council, and I meet with our leadership council, five guys every week.
I think it's all about growth and development, guys. Sometimes when these kids come to college and they're 18 years old, they might be 18 going on 16, because this is the most accountable they'd ever had to be in their live, and it's an adjustment. Now they seem to have made the adjustment, and they feel like we have a lot of basketball in them and we have a lot of togetherness and teamwork and nobody is complaining, pointing finger, we just play ball.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports