Alabama basketball: Tide holds off Iona in NCAA tournament opener

Alabama basketball pulled away in the final 10 minutes on its way to a 68-55 victory over Iona in its NCAA tournament opener Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The No. 2-seeded Crimson Tide (25-6) advanced to face either No. 7 seed UConn (15-7) or No. 10 seed Maryland (16-13) on Monday. UConn and Michigan play at 6:10 p.m. on CBS.

SEC tournament and league regular-season champion Alabama improved to 22-21 all-time in NCAA tournament history in its 23rd appearance.

Iona, coached by Rick Pitino, finished 12-6 in a season that saw it pause activity twice due to COVID-19 issues.

The Crimson Tide tried to establish an up-tempo pace from the start and made its first three shots but had trouble finishing possessions or pulling away from the Gaels. Iona led 9-8 at the first break a little more than 4 minutes into the contest.

Alabama surged back ahead but then went cold from the field as Iona rallied to take a 23-22 lead with a little more than five minutes remaining before intermission. By halftime, the Crimson Tide was clinging to a 33-32 advantage.

The second half was a back-and-forth affair until Alabama established a double-digit lead with its run midway through the period.