Photo by Hannah Saad from The Crimson White
By Austin Hannon
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- For the first time since 2002, the Alabama Crimson Tide are champions on the hardwood. The 19-year drought was snapped at Humphrey Coliseum with an Alabama 64-59 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Similar to the first matchup in Tuscaloosa, the Bulldogs gave the Crimson Tide everything they could handle, but Alabama once again found a way, completing the season sweep.
The Crimson Tide have yet to lose a game when leading at halftime this season, and this game was no different. After a slow start only showing 11 total points on the board almost eight minutes into the first half, Alabama was able to get on a run before the half and led 34-21 going into the locker room. Jahvon Quinerly was a key factor in the first half success, scoring 15 off the bench through 20 minutes.
But as expected, the Bulldogs came out swinging, going on an 8-2 run to trim the Alabama lead to seven. The lead was around 10 for the rest of the second half until around the six-minute mark. And then, Mississippi State came back again, cutting the Tide lead to 56-53 with 4:17 remaining. It felt like another heartbreaking late game loss in February was on the way. But after a huge three-pointer from James Rojas, the Tide were able to win the free-throw game and watch the time tick off the clock. And as soon as the clock hit zero, the celebration was on. Water showers in the locker room, and a warm greeting at Coleman Coliseum from fans were all part of a special night for the Alabama basketball program.
After the game, head coach Nate Oats said, “I’m really proud of our guys. It’s not easy to win SEC Championships. I thought our kids played really hard, that’s the hardest we’ve played in a long time. They did what we asked them to do. The offense didn’t come easy. Give Mississippi State a lot of credit they made it hard to score and they hung in there and made it a tight game, but our kids rebounded the ball and played hard, diving on the floor for loose ball and taking charges. I thought our defensive effort was the best we’ve had in a long time. We’ll get the offense fixed hopefully next week. I’m just really proud of the guys because SEC Championships don’t come easy.”
The Crimson Tide will play their final home game this season against the Auburn Tigers on Tuesday night. But no matter what, the Crimson and White will be the #1 seed in Nashville in the SEC Tournament.