No. 7 Alabama 64, Mississippi State 59: How Crimson Tide basketball clinched the SEC championship

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

STARKVILLE, Miss. — No. 7 Alabama claimed the outright Southeastern Conference regular-season championship Saturday with a 64-59 win over Mississippi State.

Defense was the key as Alabama (19-6, 14-2) limited MSU (13-12, 7-9) to 40.7 shooting, outrebounded the Bulldogs 45-40 and never allowed MSU to take a lead even as its own offense struggled in the final 10 minutes. 

Clutch 3-pointers of the year from a surprise shooter

Alabama has some excellent 3-point shooters, although several seem to be in a simultaneous slump. The 3-pointer that gave Alabama breathing room after a long, nervous stretch at 56-53 came from reserve James Rojas.

More:Alabama basketball fans breathe sigh of relief as team wins first SEC title since 2002

Although he had not made a 3-pointer since Jan. 12, his shot from the right corner upped the Alabama lead to six points and gave Alabama a more comfortable lead for the final minute.

Feb 27, 2021; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Jahvon Quinerly (13) handles the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at Humphrey Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Quinerly comes up big

Jahvon Quinerly gave the Alabama offense a big boost, coming off the bench to score 19  points, 15 in the first half, in a game where points were at a premium.

Quinerly had Alabama’s best plus/minus ratio (plus-12) in 27 minutes. 

Tide takes a title

The Alabama victory was its 14th SEC win of the season, clinching the regular-season title.

The Crimson Tide can finish no worse than 14-4, while second-place Arkansas, which defeated LSU on Saturday, can finish no better than 13-4 as the SEC schedule does not allow the Razorbacks to play a second COVID-19 makeup game.

The SEC championship in basketball is Alabama's first since 2002.