Photo by Hannah Saad from the Crimson White

By Austin Hannon

It took a large comeback, but the Alabama Crimson Tide found a way to reach the SEC Championship game after beating Tennessee 73-68. It will be the Tide’s first trip to the final game since 2002.

Even without team leader John Fulkerson, Tennessee came out ready to compete, jumping out to a 13-4 start. Alabama was able to keep pace with the Volunteers, but still trailed by nine heading into halftime.

In the second half, the story was the Crimson Tide. Ranked first in defensive efficiency by Kenpom, the Crimson Tide forced 19 turnovers including 10 steals to insert themselves back into the game. The Volunteers led 48-33 with 16:56 left, and then Alabama went on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to one with just over 12 minutes. Down the stretch, Keon Ellis knocked down big shots and the Crimson Tide got just enough stops to put away the Volunteers.

Herbert Jones finished with a career-high 21 points, and added 13 rebounds, while Jahvon Quinerly came off the bench to score 19.

The Crimson Tide once again showed their resiliency late, winning their sixth game decided by two possessions or less. They also moved to 15-0 when outrebounding their opponent, a feat they once again accomplished Saturday.

After the game, Alabama Head coach Nate Oats said, “I thought Tennessee really came ready to play. Without (John) Fulkerson, I thought they had a great plan. They came out and played a lot better than us in the first half, shoot, even at the beginning of the second half. I think we got down 15, if that’s correct, before we went on the 14-0 run. A lot of respect, a lot of credit goes to Tennessee, how they came out and played. I think for us, it was one of those gut-check wins where the guys expect to win. I think it’s one of those deals where our guys have changed their attitude. They expect to win.”

Alabama will face off against the LSU Tigers on Sunday afternoon looking for its first SEC Tournament title since 1991. The Crimson Tide already defeated the Tigers twice this season, including a thrashing in Baton Rouge in which Alabama set the SEC record for three-pointers made in a game. LSU defeated Arkansas on Saturday night to punch their ticket to the championship game. The game is set for tip-off at Noon CT on ESPN.