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LSU came within an easy layup of its first SEC Tournament title since 1980 when it lost to Alabama, 80-79, in a thriller in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville last March 14.
After LSU’s Trendon Watford missed a 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds to go, Aundre Hyatt rebounded and missed a putback with 0.8 seconds left from the left side. Darius Days rebounded Hyatt’s miss to the right of the goal and was about to go up in time for the win. But Watford, trailing his 3-point miss, stormed in without seeing Days, bumped him and accidentally altered his shot.
It was no good. Game over.
LSU missed three open shots in the final three seconds for the loss. Alabama won its first SEC Tournament title since 1991 with its third win over the Tigers that season.
“Get the (expletive) out of here,” Alabama coach Nate Oats yelled at the LSU team as the game ended.
The teams engaged in some light pushing before tip-off as assistants from both teams jawed back and forth. Neither Oats nor LSU coach Will Wade were on the floor when the tussle happened.
The two teams meet again at 7 p.m. eastern Wednesday on ESPN2.
LSU (15-2, 3-2 SEC) dropped to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll from No. 12 on Monday after getting outscored 17-2 in the final minutes to lose to Arkansas, 65-58, on Saturday.
Alabama (11-6, 2-3 SEC) fell from No. 24 to out of the poll after three straight losses — 78-76 at Mississippi State on Saturday and 81-77 and 92-86 to Auburn and at Missouri, respectively.
Watford, who scored a career-high 30 points in that previous game, is with the NBA Portland Trail Blazers. LSU’s other top two scorers from that game — Javonte Smart with 21 and Cameron Thomas with 18 — are also in the NBA. Smart is in the G League in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Thomas is with the Brooklyn Nets.
Days, who had two points and 12 rebounds against Alabama last time, is scoring 14 with 7.6 rebounds a game this season as a senior. LSU transfer point guard Xavier Pinson (10.9 points a game) may miss his third straight game with a sprained knee.
Three of Alabama’s leading scorers from the SEC Tournament title game are back. Jaden Shackelford, a 6-foot-3 junior guard who had 21 points, leads the Tide with 16.2 points a game this season. Jahvon Quinerly, a 6-1 junior guard who had 14, is averaging 14.8 this season. And 6-6 guard Keon Ellis, who had 14 points, is averaging 12.2 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.
“Quinerly and Shackelford are going to play great,” Wade said. “We’re going to get their best game. They’re going to play as well as they’ve played all year. No doubt about that. That’s why you would’ve liked to have beat Arkansas. That would have been the prudent thing to do.”
Oats sounded as down as Wade.
“We’ve got to get our stuff in order,” he said. “We’ve got to get to the point where we’re playing hard every day. I think we’ve lost a little bit of our confidence.”
LSU entered the Arkansas game very confident on a three-game winning streak, only to lose to a team that is 13-5 and 3-3. The Tiger committed five turnovers down the stretch after taking a 56-48 lead with 9:01 to go.
“We’ve got to quit making the same mistakes over and over again,” Wade said. “We just have to get a bit cleaner on both ends of the floor.”