Alabama Tops LSU in Thriller, Wins 1st SEC Tournament Title Since 1991

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

Alabama head coach Nate Oats, left, and players lift the trophy after the championship game of the NCAA college basketball Southeastern Conference Tournament between Alabama and LSU Sunday, March 14, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. Alabama won 80-79. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Alabama won its first SEC men's basketball tournament since 1991 with an 80-79 win over LSU in Sunday's final.

Jaden Shackelford led the Crimson Tide with 21 points, but it was Herbert Jones who hit the game-winner with 21 seconds left to sink the Tigers for the third time this season.  

It was a matchup that lived up to March Madness with a back-and-forth battle that remained within single digits the entire game. There were four lead changes in the final 80 seconds of the second half as the league's best players seemingly couldn't miss.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

The ending of the Bama and LSU SEC title game was WILD 🍿 https://t.co/ZT6WEor76j

LSU had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but a missed Trendon Watford three and several more attempts at a putback resulted in a loss.

ESPN @espn

Alabama wins the SEC Tournament championship game 👏 LSU came up short in the final seconds. https://t.co/3rI1ahA5Rn

Watford had 30 points, but his team came up just short in the thrilling contest.

The typical football rivalry moved to the hardwood this time around, although there was still plenty of physicality beginning with pregame warm-ups:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Things getting chippy between Alabama and LSU before tipoff 👀 (via @mikerodak) https://t.co/bW7Y2t2YOP

It didn't seem to affect the Crimson Tide, which followed its regular-season SEC title with a tournament title. They will enter the NCAA tournament with six straight wins as a top contender for the Final Four. 


Notable Performances

Herbert Jones, F, ALA: 13 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks

Jaden Shackelford, G, ALA: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists

Jahvon Quinerly, G, ALA: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists

Trendon Watford, F, LSU: 30 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals

Cameron Thomas, G, LSU: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals

Ja'Vonte Smart, G, LSU: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists


Herb Jones Leads Complete Effort from Alabama

The SEC Player of the Year isn't always known for his scoring, but Herb Jones came through offensively in the biggest moments.

His left-handed flush in the closing minutes gave the Crimson Tide a huge push down the stretch:

SEC Network @SECNetwork

HERB JONES 😤 @AlabamaMBB https://t.co/DLiNLvy9Of

Jones then hit the game-winning shot and got his hand on the ball in the final defensive possession to seal the win for Alabama. Filling up the stat sheet with 13 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four blocks showed the type of impact he had on the game.

Michael Casagrande @ByCasagrande

Fitting for Herb Jones to tip a Watford 3-pointer on the final sequence that clinched the championship win.

Of course, Jones didn't do it all himself. Alabama has relied on its depth all year long and that was no different in the SEC Championship Game.

Jahvon Quinerly did his part off the bench as the sophomore scored 14 to continue his incredible run in March.

LSU appeared ready to take a lead into halftime until Quinerly keyed a 7-0 run to close the first half with a 40-37 Alabama lead.

SEC Network @SECNetwork

𝗝𝗘𝗟𝗟𝗬 𝗝𝗤 🍇 @AlabamaMBB https://t.co/FFPZl3QR0w

The production continued in the second half with key shots all over the court on his way to tournament MVP:

Kyle Tucker @KyleTucker_ATH

Jahvon Quinerly is starting to look like the guy who was a five-star recruit, not the Villanova flameout. He has been COOKING dudes all weekend at the SEC tournament. And some pure, pure 3-pointers. He has 10 first-half points. HALFTIME: Bama 40, LSU 37

Connor O'Gara @cjogara

Kyrie Quinerly

Jaden Shackelford also more than did his part with five made three-pointers on his way to 21 points.

The entire team also stepped up on the boards, finishing with 19 offensive rebounds. It sent a message early on and continued throughout the game.

Alabama didn't have its best shooting day (12-of-36 from three-point range) and struggled to get to the line, but the second-chance points led to a quality offensive performance in a hard-fought win.


Trendon Watford Takeover Nearly Leads to LSU Upset

LSU has three top scorers on its roster, and each of them came to play in the biggest game of the year.

Cameron Thomas was the star early with some deep threes to keep the Tigers competitive:

SEC Network @SECNetwork

Cam Thomas from the logo. TWICE 🔥 https://t.co/lXg6QXP1yB

Thomas and Ja'Vonte Smart combined for nine three-pointers with some clutch shots while helping run the offense throughout the game.

There was still no one better than Trendon Watford, who was nearly unstoppable with his ability to attack and finish.

LSU Basketball @LSUBasketball

Bring whoever you want... Trendon Watford is still gonna score. 📺 ESPN https://t.co/Jw4xIURHk0

Terry Robinson @terryrobinson62

Nobody on Alabama can stop Watford.

Tim Brando @TimBrando

There is no guarding Watford one on one today!

The physicality especially helped make big plays down the stretch:

LSU Basketball @LSUBasketball

𝐑𝐄𝐋𝐄𝐍𝐓𝐋𝐄𝐒𝐒 📺 ESPN https://t.co/MjYc1CR1zF

Jalen Mills @greengoblin

That boy watford Tuff‼️

It meant a career-best scoring effort for the sophomore to match up with one of the best defensive teams in the country.

This trio was outstanding in the game, although the rest of the team combined for just 10 of 79 points. It was likely the difference as LSU fell just short of victory.


What's Next?

Both teams are likely heading to the NCAA tournament but will have to wait until 6 p.m. ET for the selection committee to reveal the draws. According to Bracket Matrix, Alabama is projected to be a No. 2 seed, while LSU is projected as a No. 7.