It was much tougher than expected, but Alabama managed to fend off Auburn and clinch the SEC title with a 90-85 win in overtime.
The game got off to an ominous start when Auburn F Jaylin Williams knocked down a three on the opening possession. That kicked off a torrid shooting run for an Auburn team that averages six threes per game in SEC play, as they connected on nine of their first 11 three point attempts. Meanwhile Alabama struggled from outside for the second straight outing, which is quite concerning as the calendar turns to March, and as a result there were a couple of occasions where Auburn was on the brink of running the Tide right out of Coleman. Auburn played a physical brand of basketball and piled up fouls in the process, but it was working.
To their credit, Alabama refused to fold. Down 17 midway through the second half, Jahvon Quinerly keyed a 9-0 run to get the Tide within eight.
That’s when tempers flared.
Following an Auburn turnover on the baseline, a skirmish broke out under the Auburn basket. Some Alabama players who had left the bench to celebrate during the timeout noticed the action and reacted toward it. As a result, Charles Bediako and Rylan Griffen were ejected from the game even though neither really engaged in the scuffle. Fortunately for the Tide, Auburn forward John Broome fouled out on the play which somewhat offset the loss of Chuck.
Alabama eschewed the three point shot down the stretch and had little trouble getting into the paint. Quinerly keyed the action with several blow-bys, but Mark Sears and Brandon Miller also made some plays going to the rim. Auburn kept delivering blows, but the Tide managed to chip away at the lead and finally caught up at 73-73 with just over two minutes to play, then took their first lead one possession later.
Up two with just under a minute to play, a three from Sears rimmed out with the crowd ready to blow the roof off the building. In a microcosm of the evening, that miss led to an Auburn runout for the tie. Neither team could get a good look on the final two possessions, and off to overtime we went.
The Tide started out the extra period in fine fashion, a Jaden Bradley dish to Noah Clowney and a Sears three pointer opening up a five point advantage, then yet another Auburn three pointer, their 11th on the night in 18 tries, immediately brought the Tigers back within two. Bradley then put his head down and scored his first points on night, a huge three-point play on a beautiful reverse layup through contact.
Auburn, of course, just kept on uncharacteristically hitting contested three pointers because that’s how this game went. If Alabama was to cut down the nets tonight, the Tigers were going to make them fight like hell for it. That’s exactly what Alabama did, and some clutch free throw shooting by Jaden Bradley and Brandon Miller sealed it.
There isn’t much you can do about a team burning up the nets outside like Auburn did tonight, but Alabama is going to have to get their three-ball going again if they plan to stick around in March. The rebounding wasn’t great tonight either, so Nate will have plenty to coach up.
Still, we’re SEC Champions, y’all. Raise a glass.