Basketball Wins Its First SEC Title Since 2002
After taking down the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday by a score of 64-59, the Alabama Men's Basketball team officially won their first SEC regular-season championship since 2002.
Taking notes from his football counterpart, Nick Saban, coach Nate Oats wasn't shy about what his team needed to fix after the win.
On the effort, Oats said, "To rebound the ball like we did and play as hard as we did with the kids diving on the floor for loose balls and taking charges -- I thought our defensive effort was the best we’ve had in a long time. “We’ll get the offense fixed … but just really proud of the guys."
As the final score may reflect, the offensive side of the floor for both teams started at a snail's pace for the majority of the first half. Alabama's offense started 1-7 from the field and struggled to get going until sophomore guard Jahvon Quinerly came off the bench with some scoring life. "JQ" hit back-to-back three-pointers to take the lead after the first media timeout. At the half, Quinerly headed to the locker room leading the squad with 15 points and a steal as Alabama led 34-21.
However, Mississippi State didn't lay down without a fight in the second half and kept themselves in the game until the last few minutes of play. Unlike the controversial ending between No. 20 Arkansas and the Crimson Tide earlier this week, both teams today actually tied in both personal fouls (17) and free throw opportunities (17). As the lead and minutes left in the game were fleeting for Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide, junior forward James Rojas hit a three-pointer to all but ice the game with 43 seconds remaining.
As mentioned, Quinerly's contributions from the bench came in clutch and he'd leave the game leading the team in points (19) while tying the team leaders in both assists (2) and steals (2). While senior forward Herb Jones had a rather pedestrian night in scoring, it was his 14 rebounds, two assists, and pair of steals that heavily contributed to shutting down the Bulldogs offense.
Alabama has two more regular-season games prior to their 2021 SEC Tournament trip to Nashville, TN. The next game - and last opponent in Coleman Coliseum for the season - will come on Tuesday, March 3, at 6:00 pm as the new SEC regular-season champs try to complete the season sweep against the Auburn Tigers (12-13). They'll play a road game in Athen against UGA on Saturday, March 6, then prepare for the conference tournament taking place March 11-March 14.
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