After clinching SEC title, No. 8 Alabama hosts rival Auburn
For the first time in 19 years, Alabama is the Southeastern Conference champion in men's basketball.
And for the first time in 45 years, the Crimson Tide swept SEC titles in both hoops and football.
No. 8 Alabama (19-6, 14-2) secured the league's regular season title with a 64-59 win at Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Jahvon Quinerly scored 19 points off the bench and Jaden Shackelford finished with 15 points to lead the Crimson Tide, who next host longtime rival Auburn (12-13, 6-10) on Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa.
"I went in there and they dumped a bunch of water on me," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "They were already celebrating before we got off the floor. They were fired up about it, they knew what was at stake. It's big. It doesn't happen very often."
Alabama won in spite of its ongoing struggles from 3-point range. The Tide shot only 25 percent (7 of 28) from behind the arc and 32.3 percent overall. Alabama shot 25.6 percent from deep against Vanderbilt and 33.3 percent against Arkansas in their two prior games.
But the Tide created numerous second-chance points with 17 offensive rebounds, led by Herbert Jones' 14 rebounds (six on the offensive end). Quinerly's 8-of-16 shooting led to his seventh consecutive double-digit scoring game as Alabama's bench outscored Mississippi State's reserves 36-5.
"I always preach to him, I don't think anybody in the country can stay in front of him," Jones said. "I feel like he believed that tonight, and he created a lot of offense for us. He's playing with a ton of confidence."
Two years after making it to the Final Four, Auburn won't play in the postseason due to a self-imposed ban stemming from the investigation into former assistant coach Chuck Person.
But the Tigers came up with one of their best wins of the season on Saturday, snapping a three-game losing streak with a 77-72 victory at home against No. 25 Tennessee. It was Auburn's second victory of the season against a ranked opponent.
Allen Flanigan scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Tigers bounced back from a blowout loss to Florida. Auburn persevered despite the absence of star freshman and leading scorer Sharife Cooper, who missed his second consecutive game with a left ankle injury.
"Guys stepping up, guys making shots, guys taking on bigger roles without Sharife," Flanigan said. "Sharife, you know, he's real great with the ball. He makes plays for others as well as himself. So with him out, we knew we were going to have to step up and try to fill in the gaps."
Jamal Johnson started at point guard and finished with 14 points and three assists while committing only one turnover. Devan Cambridge tied a season high with 15 points while Jaylin Williams had 13 points and JT Thor scored 10.
"There hasn't been a ton of joy in Mudville after games, but you could see the kids just haven't quit," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "And somehow we were the most excited team to play, which is really, really hard to do. Our starters were terrific. They all stepped up in a huge, huge way."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 1, 2021