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Alabama basketball had a prime opportunity Wednesday to show it had the toughness coach Nate Oats has coveted.
The Crimson Tide held a comfortable double-digit lead heading down the stretch in the second half against No. 16 LSU, but the Tigers weren't done. With just under five minutes left, LSU tied the game.
Then, the Tigers drew within one after Brandon Murray hit a 3-pointer with six seconds left.
Time for Alabama to display some toughness. And the Crimson Tide rose to the occasion.
Thanks to late free throws from Keon Ellis, Alabama pushed through the final minutes to defeat LSU 70-67 on Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum to end a three-game losing streak. Jaden Shackelford led the way for Alabama, scoring 26 points with four rebounds.
Here are observations and takeaways from the matchup between Alabama (12-6, 3-3 SEC) vs. No. 16 LSU (15-3, 3-3)
Jahvon Quinerly thrives early in familiar role
Starting the game on the bench was just what Alabama's point guard needed.
He had been cold offensively the past two games, shooting 5-for-24 from the floor and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc. So Oats decided to have him come off the bench.
It's a role Quinerly hasn't often filled this season but one that he knows well from 2020-21. He only started in seven of 30 games in which he played last season, but he still managed to pick up 23 double-figure scoring games. Coming off the bench worked well for Quinerly before, so why not try it again?
The plan worked. Freshman JD Davison got his first career start, but Quinerly entered about five minutes in. He took off from there.
By the end of the first half, he had scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers. He also managed to score off multiple drives to the basket, providing an offensive spark alongside Shackelford.
Quinerly finished with 17 points, three rebounds and an assist.
Tari Eason leaves his mark
LSU's sophomore forward found ways to have his name called in all sorts of ways.
Offensively, he was a force for the Tigers. At one point early in the first half, LSU went on a 7-0 run. Eason scored all of those points, four from the paint and three from beyond the arc.
One of his other best moments occurred when he turned in a four-point play at the end of the first half to draw LSU within one point heading into the break. He hit a 3-pointer with .6 seconds left in the half, then knocked down his free-throw attempt.
He started off the second half well, too. After a steal, he went down the court and dunked to give LSU a one-point lead with 16:40 left.
He left his mark in a literal way, too. He hit Juwan Gary in the face with an elbow that forced him to leave the game. He was ruled out early in the second half. Eason also poked Ellis in the eye, but Ellis remained and hit both of his free-throws.
Eason tallied 26 points and 10 rebounds as he picked up four fouls.
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Alabama uses 3-pointers to fuel lead before going cold
This time, the Crimson Tide didn't wait until the final minutes of the game to hit a few threes.
Instead, Alabama heated up from beyond the arc in the first half. The Crimson Tide converted 7 of 19 from deep range in the first half. And it's a good thing Alabama had that success because it struggled from inside the arc. The Crimson Tide made 10 total field goals in the first half.
Alabama used those 3-pointers to grab a 33-32 halftime lead.
That success didn't translate to the second half, though. The Crimson Tide didn't make another 3-point shot, facing the nation's No. 1 team in defensive efficiency.
Eric Gaines heats up while Alabama slows late
Alabama looked like it might win comfortably as the second half progressed, but Gaines had other ideas.
He made three consecutive 3-pointers to bring LSU within 57-53 with 5:30 left. Then, Brandon Murray jumped in, too, adding his own three. The Tigers went on a 12-1 run over 90 seconds with only a few minutes left in regulation.
Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama basketball snaps three-game losing streak with win over LSU