NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trevor Lacey scored 15 points, JaMychal Green added 12 and Alabama played lockdown defense in the final six minutes to beat South Carolina 63-57 in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.
The fifth-seeded Crimson Tide led for most of the game, but South Carolina tied it at 51 on the second of back-to-back 3-pointers by Brenton Williams with 6:38 remaining. Alabama (21-10) then held 12th-seeded South Carolina (10-21) scoreless for more than five minutes and did enough on offense to ease past the Gamecocks.
Lacey was efficient for the Crimson Tide and clutch in the final minutes, scoring seven points in the final 3:04 to put the game away. He made 4 of 5 shots from the field — including a 3-pointer — and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
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Green added seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
South Carolina lost 11 of 12 games to end the season. Alabama won for the fifth time in six games and advances to play Florida in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Williams and Damien Leonard led South Carolina with 13 points each.
Alabama used an 8-0 run midway through the first half to break open a tight game and eventually build a 37-26 halftime lead. Nick Jacobs scored eight first-half points despite turning his right ankle and briefly leaving the game.
The Tide led by as many as 14 in the first half.
But South Carolina pushed back early in the second half, pulling within 42-40 on R.J. Slawson’s layup with 13:48 remaining. The Gamecocks stayed within striking distance throughout the final minutes and appeared to have the momentum after Williams’ two 3-pointers, but couldn’t score again until a Bruce Ellington layup with 1:33 remaining.
South Carolina had 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 29-25. Alabama had a huge advantage at the foul line, making 24 of 29 while South Carolina made 5 of 6.