TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama‘s players stood at midcourt, throwing on T-shirts to celebrate an SEC regular-season championship. They did it at home against their biggest rival, in a comeback that the school hadn’t experienced for at least a decade.
They brought out signs celebrating a title and cut down nets after a 90-85 overtime win versus Auburn on Wednesday. It was a frenetic game that culminated in Alabama’s second regular-season conference title in three years.
The Crimson Tide trailed by 17 points with 10:49 left in the second half, making it Alabama’s biggest comeback since at least the 2010-11 season. It was also the school’s first overtime victory over Auburn since 1985.
It was a contest that saw three Auburn starters — forwards Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome and guard Allen Flanigan — foul out and two Alabama players ejected for leaving the bench during a small verbal tussle between Auburn’s Wendell Green Jr. and K.D. Johnson and Alabama’s Jahvon Quinerly, who appeared to toss the ball at Broome after coming across the lane for a steal.
Quinerly, who led the Crimson Tide with 24 points, then bumped into Green, causing the verbal interaction. Rylan Griffen and Charles Bediako came off the bench and ran toward the altercation that the referees quickly broke up, and both were ejected. Alabama coach Nate Oats said he was worried about his squad losing momentum at the time of the argument, which came with 7:31 remaining and the Tide down 66-58.
It was part of a 16-point run that brought Alabama back in the game and helped it force overtime and eventually win an SEC title — a championship and a season that has had the constant reminder of a murder investigation surrounding it since the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris on Jan. 15 near Alabama’s campus.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group, to be honest with you,” Oats said. “Obviously, it’s a heartbreaking situation that’s never lost on us. But the kids have worked really hard. Winning the SEC is not an easy thing to do.”
After the game, the school did not make players available to reporters for the sixth straight media session.
The past two weeks have seen increased scrutiny of Alabama and its No. 2 basketball program for off-court reasons.
Testimony in a Feb. 21 preliminary hearing for the murder of Harris revealed that Alabama’s best player, Brandon Miller, had driven the car that contained the weapon used in the shooting. Miller’s ex-teammate, Darius Miles, allegedly provided the gun used to kill Harris to the alleged shooter, Michael Lynn Davis. Miles and Davis are facing capital murder charges.
Miller’s attorney, Jim Standridge, said Miller did not know the gun was in his vehicle and never handled the weapon. Oats and police say Miller has been cooperating with the investigation, and he has not been charged with any crime.
Alabama made a decision to allow Miller to continue to play, and he scored a career-high 41 points the following night, a Feb. 22 win at South Carolina, then had a team-high 24 in a triumph over visiting Arkansas on Saturday.
The controversy followed, though, as Miller and a walk-on member of the team performed a pregame introduction routine on Saturday that Miller had used often this season — a TSA-like pat-down. Oats said Tuesday it would not happen again, and Miller did not use the introduction prior to Wednesday’s game.
Against Auburn, Miller scored 17 points, going 3-of-12 from the field and making 10 of 11 free throws in 39 minutes.
Alabama next plays on Saturday at Texas A&M, before next week’s SEC tournament.