Collin Sexton stood alone, just beyond the three-point line, and launched his final shot of the night.
A split-second later the ball splashed through the net.
With 1:48 remaining in the game, and Alabama leading by 21 points, Sexton applied the exclamation point to an emphatic, entertaining 86-64 victory over Lipscomb in the team's home opener.
He then turned toward the crowd, soaked in a standing ovation and left the floor.
It was a fitting exit for the Crimson Tide's headlining act.
An announced crowd of 12,325 watched the ballyhooed freshman make his college debut Tuesday, and they didn't leave disappointed. They saw him lead his team with 22 points and dish out five assists in 27 minutes -- galvanizing a program that last season could lull its most ardent supporters to sleep.
"For a first game," Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said, "not bad."
Despite his understated reaction to Sexton's performance, Johnson is bullish on his young star's future that seemed in jeopardy not too long ago. For a while, the guard's eligibility was in question after the school's basketball administrator, Kobie Baker, resigned in September following an FBI complaint that revealed he accepted money as part of a scheme to influence Sexton's father to sign with a financial advisor.
Sexton, the crown jewel of a freshman class regarded the best in Alabama history, was suddenly in the crosshairs of the NCAA. He was held out of an exhibition game and suspended for the season opener against Memphis.
That led to the hype crescendoing Tuesday. As tipoff approached, all eyes were on Sexton. So too were the cameras. A television photographer, with his lens mere inches from Sexton, captured the freshman as he pedaled on an exercise bike.
Sexton did little to hide, welcoming the attention. He was the last to take the floor during pregame warmups and then the first to be introduced by the public-address announcer -- the Alpha and Omega of Alabama basketball in this new season.
"He was active and animated," Johnson said. "Whatever it is, that's what we need."
Among today's youth, it's referred to as swagger. Johnson calls it confidence. And Sexton has no shortage of that.
Pegged as a potential entree in next year's NBA Draft, Sexton carries himself as if he's a transcendent talent.
"He brings a lot of energy to the arena," sophomore guard Dazon Ingram said. "As you can see, the fans love him. He brings a lot of offense for us."
Sexton, not surprisingly, didn't wait to show that.
He took the team's first shot and also made its last one. In between, he revved up the crowd by igniting Alabama's transition game.
In the first half, following a missed attempt by Lipscomb's Garrison Mathews, Sexton charged up the floor and flipped a pass back to fellow freshman John Petty near the arc. With the lane clear, Petty raced to the goal and dunked.
Later on, when Alabama seized control of the game, Ingram and Sexton orchestrated a seamless fast break. Both players delivered no-look passes -- the last of which was sent from Sexton to a trailing Donta Hall, who proceeded to slam it home as Alabama took a commanding 71-56 lead.
Roars echoed through Coleman Coliseum.
A show was being staged.
But there was substance behind this sizzle.
Sexton finished the night with a plus-21. No other player had such a positive impact on the floor.
"He is a key to our offense," Petty said.
Perhaps the only person who wasn't impressed with Sexton was the man charged with drawing up a plan to stop him.
Lipscomb's coach Casey Alexander pooh-poohed the freshman's performance.
"I didn't think he dominated the game or is a guy that couldn't be guarded," Alexander said. "Our guys didn't play with any fear. I give him plenty of credit for being a great player. But if I didn't know much of the history going into it, I wouldn't have thought much of it, to be honest with you."
But moments before that comment, Alexander did acknowledge Sexton has a "great future."
It sure looks that way, and Alabama fans can't wait to see it unfold over the next 29 regular-season games. So far, the Tide's headlining act hasn't given them any reason to turn away.
Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin...Read more