Forty minutes was not enough for the iron basketball tournament. After a back-and-forth second half, and in many ways mirroring the team’s previous meeting a month earlier, second-place Alabama was just too much for Auburn.
Four different Crimson Tide players made four straight shots in overtime after three of the Tigers’ most influential players were fouled. Leading by two minutes with about a minute left in the game, Jaden Bradley and Mark Sears grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds, eventually driving Bradley to the goal line for an ice throw. By the final bell, a season of historic success achieved another milestone in dramatic fashion.
Having reached its highest ever ranking in an Associated Press poll. After the conference’s 11 wins are at least double digits set by the team in 1956, per UA Athletics. After a 15-0 undefeated season at home, the first since the Tide went 19-0 in 2010-11, Alabama managed to add another honor to this year’s team: regular Southeastern Conference champions.
Against a raucous Coleman Coliseum, the No. 2 Tide (26-4, 16-1) rallied late on to win 90-85. Three different players scored 17 points as Sears and Noah Clooney scored key baskets and Brandon Miller (17 points on three field goals and 10 free throws) couldn’t find a rhythm.
Meanwhile, Auburn (19-11, 9-8) posted a new season-high in 3 made runs (12) and an overall percentage (12-for-20). It also bested the Tides for most of the competition. However, with three of the Tigers’ leading scorers finishing the game – Allen Flanigan (17 points), Jaylen Williams (15) and Jonny Bron (10) – there was a lack of scoring and inside defense options at a time of crunch. Bruce Pearl’s team added a competitive showing to the March Madness resume but not the much sought after Quadrant 1 win this week.
Led by Johnson’s 21 points, including four three-pointers made on five attempts, Auburn’s solo shooting was exceptional. Using screens off the ball and dribble deliveries, the Tigers created room near the paint and capitalized on jump shots. It sounded in the opening frame and for most of the second half, whenever the crowd reached a crescendo, Johnson, Williams or Flanigan would answer.
With halftime approaching with a seven-point lead, a pocket of fans in blue and orange uniforms began chanting “Let’s go Auburn” as Alabama entered the tunnel.
Starting about midway through the second half, Alabama began to claw back its 17-point deficit. Broome’s absence only emphasized Auburn’s shortcomings on the inside. Support center Dylan Cardwell stumbled off the field late with an apparent lower right leg injury and never returned. Alabama converted 18 of 27 punt attempts while Auburn went seven of 21 close. At one point, Auburn had stretched nearly six minutes with no field goals and five turnovers.
As it did against Arkansas and on the Plains on February 11, Alabama began striking out, resulting in a 14-0 run. Sears and Clowney came out of the break and hit 2 3s. The screens above the switch are starting to have an open space near the edge. Even Miller, who felt his presence more in the extra period, worked the track and caught the attention of others.
A double technical foul led to a stoppage for several minutes in the second half. After the officials reviewed a field foul in which players from both teams had to be separated, Broome fouled Auburn and had Alabama’s Charles Pediaco and Rylan Griffin ejected.
Alabama attacked the paint next while Auburn fell from 3-point range. The Tigers made nine of their first 11, but missed six of their last nine.
The night ended with a ladder erected under a basket and festive music blasting through the rafters.
The Oats’ second title in his four-year tenure puts the Tide as the sole seed for next week’s conference tournament in Nashville. With a double bye, Alabama is in the driver’s seat for the single-seed NCAA Tournament, which will likely see them play their first two games in Birmingham.
This post will be updated.
Nick Alvarez is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @employee or email him at [email protected].
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