TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama got to cut down the nets and celebrate a Southeastern Conference title, but only after staging a big comeback and forcing overtime.
Not to mention everything else swirling around the program.
Jahvon Quinerly scored 24 points, Brandon Miller made the clinching free throws with six seconds left and No. 2 Alabama rallied from a 17-point deficit before beating archrival Auburn 90-85 in overtime Wednesday night.
The Crimson Tide (26-4, 16-1 Southeastern Conference) clinched outright their second regular-season SEC championship in three years but continued to live on the edge over a troubling eight days that included courtroom revelations in a capital murder trial.
“Listen, I just couldn’t be more proud of this group,” coach Nate 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. I mean, look at the teams in this league. It’s a great league.”
Miller rebounded teammate Jaden Bradley’s missed dunk and drew a foul, making both free throws. Noah Clowney had blocked K.D. Johnson’s layup attempt on the other end.
The Tigers (19-11, 9-8), who had three key players foul out, couldn’t close it out after leading almost the entire way in regulation. They were up 17 with under 11 minutes left.
“They’re a very, very worthy champion,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said of Alabama. “But we came here to win a basketball game.”
Alabama won its fourth straight but the past three have gone down to the wire since courtroom revelations tied freshmen Miller and Bradley to the scene of a murder. Neither has been charged or accused of a crime, but then-teammate Darius Miles and another man are facing capital murder charges.
Police said Miles texted Miller asking him to bring the gun.
Quinerly tied his season scoring high after coming off the bench and had six assists. Miller, Clowney and Mark Sears all had 17 points for Alabama.
Miller committed six turnovers but made 10 of 11 free throws. He then was among players high-fiving fans during the celebration, with cameras following his every move.
Bradley scored all six of his points in overtime, going 3 of 4 on free throws over the final minute.
Johnson was 4 of 5 on 3-pointers and led Auburn with 21 points, despite shooting just 7 of 12 at the free throw line.
Allen Flanigan scored 17 points and Jaylin Williams 15 before both fouled out in overtime. Johni Broome had already picked up his fifth foul with 10 points, and then Dylan Cardwell limped off after hurting his right ankle in overtime.
“Just incredibly outnumbered at the end,” Pearl said.
At the end of this night, the Tide were celebrating the SEC title and cutting down the nets after a big rally.
“We talked about at the under-8 timeout, we needed to play harder,” Oats said. “I said, `We’re not losing this game because we didn’t play hard enough to win.’ Our guys came out and played harder.”
Miller dropped his pat-down routine from the pregame introductions, instead settling for a shoulder bump with a teammate. After Saturday’s game against Arkansas, Oats apologized for not halting the pat-downs in light of the murder trial and promised they wouldn’t continue.
A melee near Auburn’s basket led to technical fouls on Quinerly and Auburn’s Wendell Green Jr. with 7:31 left. The Tide’s Rylan Griffen and starting center Charles Bediako were ejected for leaving the bench.
“We’re at Alabama. They play football over there at the football stadium,” Pearl said. “We threw the ball, a couple of defensive backs climbed on (Broome’s) back and the ball went out of bounds. There was some sort of scuffle. Our bench stayed on the bench, and they had some guys come off, I guess.”
Quinerly gave Alabama its first lead on a pair of free throws with 1:37 left in the second half, making it 75-73, but Flanigan tied it with a layup inside the final minute. Neither team scored in regulation after that, with Green missing a contested jumper at the end.
Auburn: Started 8 of 10 from 3-point range and finished 12 of 20 (60%). … Has dropped eight of 11 games and missed a chance to make a huge statement for the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Alabama: Continued its struggles since the courtroom revelations about Miller and Bradley, having been taken to overtime by South Carolina and edging Arkansas, 86-83. … Alabama has made just 11 of 53 shots from 3-point range over the past two games. … The Tide finished with a perfect home record for the third time and first since the 2010-11 season.
Auburn hosts No. 12 Tennessee on Saturday in the regular-season finale.
Alabama closes the regular season Saturday at No. 24 Texas A&M.