It wasn't pretty, and it damn sure wasn't easy, but the 2nd ranked Crimson Tide basketball team clinched their second SEC Championship in the last three years on Wednesday night.
The Tide beat Auburn 90-85 in overtime, despite trailing by as many as 17 points halfway through the second half. Bama showed plenty of pluck and grit to pull out the win, as it improved to 26-4 on the season and 16-1 in the league.
If the win on Senior Night was not dramatic and sweet enough, the loss dropped the Tigers to 19-10 (9-7 SEC), with most pundits putting the reeling Tigers squarely on the Bubble.
The Tide used their normal starting lineup of Mark Sears, Jaden Bradley, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller.
Bama was slow starting, as has been their unwanted custom the last few games, and trailed 10-2 with 14:18 left in the half. Jahvon Quinerly entered for Bradley and hit a three pointer to close the score to 10-7 with 13:26 left. The Tide made a couple of surges to close the gap, but each time the Tigers would go on a run to stretch the score out. Auburn hit a late three pointer to close the half and lead by a score of 40-33 at the intermission.
At the half, the Tide was lucky to only be down by seven considering that Auburn shot 14-26 for 54% and 6-8 from three point range for 75% and added 6-9 from the free throw line. Meanwhile Bama shot only 11-28 for 39% including 3-13 for 23% from deep while making 8-11 free throws. The Tigers lead on the boards my a margin of 17-14 and turnovers plagued both teams, 10 for AU and nine for the Tide. Quinerly had nine points, Miller eight, and Clowney seven at the break.
In the second half, Coach Nate Oats had Quinerly start in place of Bradley. Things started off much better for the Tide, with Sears hitting a three pointer, followed by one from Clowney, and another for Sears to tie the game at 42 with 18:25 left.
However, the tide quickly turned, as Auburn went on a 20-4 run and with 11:32 left Bama trailed 62-45. It looked like the Tigers had finally begun to pull away.
But, Alabama continued to chip away.
Miller hit a couple of free throws, followed by a three from Quinerly, and layup from Sears to make it 66-58 around the eight minute mark.
That’s when tempers got out of hand on a night when the Tigers were already playing chippy
Quinerly flew into the lane to grab a rebound from Auburn big man Johni Broome. Broome hit the floor out of bounds, and before Quinerly could follow suit, threw the ball off of the Auburn player to save possession for the Tide.
A melee almost began, with some pushing and shoving going on. Broome was called for his 5th foul on the play instead of the charge, and the officials went to replay for a rather lengthy session.
After some 10-15 minutes, the results were much the same: foul on Broome, two free throws for Quinerly. Technical fouls on Quinerly and Auburn’s Wendell Green. And Bama’s Charles Bediako and Rylan Griffen hit the showers early, after leaving the bench to join the melee.
Once play finally started back Quinerly hit both free throws to cut the lead to 66-61 with 6:25 left in the game. Meanwhile the Coleman crowd was in a frenzy.
Miller kept hitting clutch free throws, along with an old fashioned three point play from Quinerly.
With the score 73-73 with 1:37 left Bama took their first lead of the night as JQ knocked down another huge shot for a 75-73 lead. AU tied things back up with 55 seconds left.
With 45 seconds on the game clock, and 22 on the shot clock, the Tide called a time out and ended up without a shot attempt by stepping out of bounds. Auburn answered with just as ugly a possession, and the game was headed to overtime.
Because basketball this ugly demanded an extra five minutes.
The Tide’s offense had been a bit better In the second half, as Bama shot 14-28 (4-16 from three), with 10-13 free throws. Auburn shot 12-29 for 41% with 4-9 from three for 44% and 7-11 at the line.
Oats stuck with Bradley, Sears, Quinerly, Clowney, and Miller for the extra period.
A Clowney dunk and Sears three pointer put the score at 80-75 with four minutes left. Miller made a steal and looked to be on a breakaway to possible ice the game, but Bradley was called for a foul 20 feet behind the play sending the Tigers to the line.
Auburn made both free shots to close within 80-77 but Miller answered with a hoop on the other end. The Tigers threw in another three pointer with 3:14 left. Allen Flanigan fouled out with 3:04 left for Auburn, which was great for the Tide. Flanigan was having a great game at the time.
Bradley drove the lane, made the basket, and was fouled for Jaylin Williams, banishing Williams to the bench with five fouls. Bradley , who has had troubles at the stripe lately, calmly made the and one for an 85-80 lead. With a lead of 85-83 and 45 seconds left Bradley went back to the line and made both free throws for and 87-83 lead.
Auburn made a hoop with 22 seconds left to put the pressure back on the Tide. Bradley was fouled again and made 1-2 shots, for a score of 88-85. On a steal and breakaway Bradley drove and tried to dunk but couldn't get the ball to go down.
Miller grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled. The 83% free throw shooter with ice water in his veins knocked down both shots with six seconds on the clock. Auburn missed at the buzzer and the Tide had claimed a season sweep of the Tigers and an SEC Championship in one fell swoop.
In overtime the Tide shot 4-10 from the field, 1-2 from deep, and 6-7 at the line. The Tigers shot 3-8 from the field, 2-3 from three, and 2-4 at the charity stripe.
Overall Bama finished 29-66 for 44%, 8-31 from three for 26%, and 24-31 on free throws for 77%. The Tide had 38 rebounds, 13 offensively, 16 assists, five blocks, 10 steals, and committed 14 turnovers. Auburn finished the game 29-63 for 46%, 12-20 from three for 60% (came in making less than 30% of their attempts on the season) and 15-24 from the stripe for 63%. The Tigers finished with 39 rebounds, 13 offensively, 13 assists, seven steals, no blocks, and 18 turnovers.
Individually it was Quinerly’s night.
The senior scored 24 points in 36 minutes on 7-12 shooting and had six assists, three steals, and ZERO turnovers. It was a bad night for Jelly haters. Clowney had 17 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Miller scored 17 despite only shooting 3-12 in the game. The superstar freshman added eight rebounds, two assists, three blocks, and a steal. Sears shot 7-14 and also scored 17 points. Bradley was next in the scoring column with six points — all big ones, all in overtime — and added five rebounds and four assists. KD Johnson scored 21 for the Tigers to lead that team.
What a win! What a season…so far.
The Tide finished 15-0 in the friendly confides of Coleman Coliseum.
Bucking tradition, Bama came out in their normal road, Crimson, uniforms. After a white-out last game fans were encouraged to wear Crimson to the game, and if you are the superstitious type that might have looked like a bad idea.
However this tough, talented, team wasn't going to lie down.
There can not be enough said about how well Quinerly has adapted to his role this season. He stepped up big tonight and becomes a two-time SEC Champion in his three years playing for the Tide. The team enjoyed a ceremony and some picture taking before bringing out the ladder to cut the nets down.
Quinerly was the last player to snip the nylon, and Oats and his youngest daughter did the honors of bringing it all the way down. Much of the sell out crowd stayed to witness the celebration.
Next up is a game at Texas A&M on Saturday at 11 am. The contest will be shown on CBS, and a win or a loss should not affect the Tide one way or the other. I still vote for win, a 17-1 SEC record would be sweet, and also put the team much closer to claiming the overall number one seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Blue Collar Basketball