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Alabama Played Minnesota Three on Five—and Almost Won

The Iron Bowl was only the second-most interesting thing to happen to the Crimson Tide today

NCAA Basketball: the Barclays Classic-Alabama vs Minnesota Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Before we start, count the players wearing white in this picture:

Don’t worry, you’re not seeing things. There aren’t two players just off screen running back to meet the play. And no one is standing directly behind a teammate in some sort of Now You See Me illusionist act. That’s no. 25 Alabama playing no. 14 Minnesota with just three men on the floor.

All of Alabama’s reserves were ejected after they left the bench during a scuffle with the Gophers with just over 13 minutes left in the game. At the time, the Crimson Tide were down 57-50. Still, the Tide had five men on the court. They weren’t able to substitute players, but they could at least run a normal offense.

Less than two minutes later, Crimson Tide guard Dazon Ingram picked up his fifth foul, and Alabama’s garrison was depleted once more. Then, with 10:50 remaining, Alabama guard John Petty went down with an injury. For nearly 11 minutes, the Crimson Tide played the no. 14 team in the country with three players. And they almost won.

The most exciting Alabama game today wasn’t the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide trailed Minnesota 65-54 when Petty left the game. Over the next 10 minutes and 50 seconds, they outscored the Gophers 30-24. At one point, Alabama cut the lead to three after a Collin Sexton layup with 1:39 left, but Minnesota hit a series of free throws down the stretch to extend their advantage, and eventually won, 89-84.

Sexton scored 17 points while playing with only two teammates, and finished with 40 on the game. His partners, Galin Smith and Riley Norris, finished with 10 and 13 points, respectively.

After the game, Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino gave some insight as to why his team struggled to attack the three-man Crimson Tide.

We don’t practice much five-on-three offense.