ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Alabama looked ordinary when it was missing its strength as one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams.
When the long-range shots started falling, the Crimson Tide again looked like the Southeastern Conference champions.
Herbert Jones had two baskets in a 9-0 run to open the second half that gave No. 8 Alabama the lead and the Crimson Tide beat Georgia 89-79 on Saturday.
Alabama led only 82-79 before Keon Ellis, a backup guard, sank a 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining. It was one of eight 3s in 10 attempts in the second half for the Crimson Tide after they made only 2 of 12 attempts in the first half.
“That 3 was huge,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said.
Jahvon Quinerly led Alabama with 18 points. John Petty Jr. had 15 and Jaden Shackelford finished with 14.
Alabama (21-6, 16-2) overcame 22 turnovers and the slow start to match its school record for SEC wins in the 1986-87 season. The Crimson Tide will take a three-game winning streak and the No. 1 seed into next week's SEC Tournament in Tennessee.
Quinerly blamed a sluggish first half on “not coming out ready to play 100%” and “some bonehead mistakes.”
“In the second half we took better care of the ball and got the ball moving around a little more and obviously the offense took care of itself,” Quinerly said.
Georgia (14-11, 7-11) led by 14 in the first half but couldn't maintain the pace. Sahvir Wheeler led the Bulldogs with 18 points. Freshman K.D. Johnson had 16.
Georgia coach Tom Crean said the key shot by Ellis was evidence of Alabama’s depth when he said is “the real separator” in the conference.
Alabama's challenge was to avoid a letdown while playing one week after clinching its first SEC regular-season championship in 19 years. The Crimson Tide cut down the nets on their home court after completing a sweep of rival Auburn on Tuesday night.
The poor long-distance shooting by Alabama early in the game created an opening for Georgia to open a 29-15 lead. The Crimson Tide regrouped to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 36-30 at halftime.
Led by Jones, who had 10 points, the Crimson Tide needed only about one minute in the second half to grab the lead. Jones had two baskets and Jordan Bruner sank a 3-pointer in a 15-2 run, including nine unanswered points, to open the half.
Alabama appeared to be on the verge of taking control when it stretched the advantage to 55-45. Georgia answered with three quick 3-pointers from Johnson to trim the Crimson Tide's lead to 57-54.
The Bulldogs briefly pulled within two points but couldn't complete the comeback. Alabama stretched its advantage back to 10 points at 73-63.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide had an injury scare late in the first half when F Juwan Gary couldn't put weight on his right leg as he was helped off the court. Gary returned to the game for the final seconds of the half. ... Oats said the slow start will be a teaching point entering the SEC Tournament. “We can’t afford in Nashville to come out like we did,” he said.
Georgia: Making its return following a full week off since a disappointing 91-70 loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs showed renewed defensive intensity. It was a much stronger outing than in their 115-82 loss at Alabama on Feb. 13.
Alabama ranked second in the nation with 278 3-pointers made and 790 attempts entering Saturday’s game. It ranked fourth with its average of 10.7 3s per game. Thanks to the strong finish, it made 10 of 22 3s for the game.
REBOUNDS AND FREE THROWS
Georgia made only 13 of 23 free throws. Alabama took a 45-32 advantage in rebounds, including 14-7 in offensive boards. “in a game like this you’ve got to have more than seven offensive rebounds,” Crean said.
Alabama will be off until playing its SEC Tournament opener in the quarterfinals on Friday in Nashville.
Georgia will play its first game in the SEC Tournament on Thursday.
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