Alabama basketball gets to have emotional celebration of SEC title at home | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

For two months, Alabama basketball has been constantly pushing. Wednesday is finally a day to relax before the pushing starts all over again. 

The Crimson Tide was able to cut down the nets at Coleman Coliseum, the ceremonial celebration of its SEC regular-season championship, after a 70-58 win over Auburn, a victory that wasn’t needed in terms of the title but always matters in program terms.

Thus, the pressure didn’t really relent until the final minute. Then emotions started to flow, and continued through the net-cutting ceremony.

“It was great for our guys," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “(Alex) Reese had tears in his eyes. He’s an Alabama kid and it’s so special for him. (Petty) was emotional. It was big for me, but it really isn’t about me, I can coach for another 20 or 25 years. This is their time.”

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After a day away from all basketball activity except physical therapy, Alabama will be back in the gym Thursday. There are areas to correct, especially on the offensive end, before a regular-season finale against Georgia and the upcoming crucible of tournament play.

Alabama guard John Petty Jr. (23) cuts down the nets after Alabama defeated Auburn and celebrated the Tide's regular season SEC Championship Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Coleman Coliseum. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The defense will get some attention, too, although it’s hard to see where Alabama could be better.

“We’re a better defensive team than I’ve ever coached,” Oats said. “We’ve been top-five in the country for a couple of months. As much as people want to talk about our analytics on offense, defense is really what we’ve hung our hat on. Our goal coming into the year was to be in the top 30. We weren’t going to 114th in the country like we were last year. I wasn’t going to have that. But I don’t know that I expected to be top-five.

”Offensively, it was good to see Shack (Jaden Shackelford) make some shots. Maybe it will help some of our other shooters to get going. We definitely need it. We gave up way too many boards, although they only had four second-chance points so at least we were able to get  back after some of the long rebounds and defend.”

Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne congratulates Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats after Alabama defeated Auburn and celebrated the Tide's regular season SEC Championship Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Coleman Coliseum. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The other offensive lift came off the bench in the person of Jahvon Quinerly, who Oats described as “a jet.” Overall shooting percentages remained down: under 40 percent from the floor, under 30 percent from 3-point range, an uncharacteristic 55 percent from the foul line.

”We’re not going to go too hard in practice Thursday and Friday because there is no need to beat yourself up this time of year,” Oats said. “But we will probably do a lot of shooting.”

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt