ATLANTA (AP) — Alabama rallied from 14 points down in the final 7 minutes of regulation and pulled it out in overtime, boosting its NCAA hopes with a stunning 65-59 victory over Georgia in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday.
JaMychal Green scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Crimson Tide (21-10), which advanced to face the Kentucky-Mississippi winner in the semifinals Saturday and surely improved its position heading into the selection of the 68-team NCAA field.
Georgia (21-11) appeared to have it locked up when Travis Leslie dunked off a lob pass from Gerald Robinson to make it 48-34 with 7:33 remaining. But the Bulldogs have struggled to put teams away all year, and this was the worst collapse yet — one that could crush their postseason chances.
Leslie led Georgia with 24 points.
Dustin Ware banked in a 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer at the end of regulation, appearing to pull out the win for Georgia. But coach Mark Fox signaled timeout just before the ball left Ware's hand, wiping out the basket. The Bulldogs didn't come close with a desperation heave, sending the game to overtime.
Georgia had thrown this game away long before the inopportune timeout, though.
There were missed free throws, including consecutive rim-outs on the front end of 1-and-1s. There were turnovers, such as Robinson fumbling the ball out of bounds on a solo fast break, when Georgia would have been better served slowing things down.
While Green did most of the work on the inside, Tony Mitchell hit the biggest basket of the game for Alabama from beyond the arc. Getting open behind a screen, he buried a 3-pointer that gave the Crimson Tide a 62-59 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Georgia didn't score again, twice missing both the initial shot and putbacks from right under the basket, the rim closing up on the Bulldogs.
Up 53-51, Georgia had a chance for a clinching basket but couldn't even get off a shot. Robinson lost control of the ball, then had to put up a wild 3 to beat the shot clock. All he hit was the support holding up the backboard, giving the ball back to Alabama.
Trevor Releford tied it with a burst into the lane, laying the ball in with his left hand with 4.2 seconds left. Georgia took off the other way and Ware appeared to have won it when his running 3.
The celebration didn't last. Georgia had to inbound with just 0.8 seconds left, not enough time to get off much of a shot. Trey Thompkins put up a turnaround 3 with Green in his face, and the Alabama player appeared to get a hand on the shot, which fell harmlessly to the court.
At the end, it was Alabama whooping it up, celebrating its second victory over Georgia in less than a week. The Tide needs all the wins it can get.
Despite a gaudy 12-4 conference record and SEC West title during the regular season, Alabama came into the tournament knowing that one win in Atlanta was an absolute necessity. Maybe even two wins.
The Tide was hampered by a low RPI rating (82nd) and three dismal losses early in the season to Seton Hall, Iowa and Saint Peter's.
Georgia felt better about its chances, especially after knocking off Auburn in the opening round. The Bulldogs had a solid RPI (39th) and no embarrassing defeats on their resume.
But this one could be a killer for a team that has made the NCAAs only once since 2002.