MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama coach Anthony Grant thinks his players may finally grasp what it takes to close out tight games with a win.
The Crimson Tide ended the regular season by twice winning the kind of games the team lost several times during the season. On Thursday, Alabama will get a rematch with one of those opponents in a first-round Southeastern Conference tournament matchup against South Carolina in Nashville, Tenn. Auburn opens the tournament against Florida.
The Tide (16-14, 6-10) won 79-70 at South Carolina eight days before the rematch and followed that with a 12-point win over the Auburn (15-16, 6-10).
Auburn's Lucas Hargrove took just three shots and finished with three points - 10 below his season average - and six rebounds against Alabama.
The Tide's season-ending win wrested the No. 4 SEC West seed from Auburn. That comes with a potential booby prize if Alabama wins the first-round game: A matchup with No. 2 Kentucky.
Auburn, which would face Mississippi State with a win, lost 78-70 at Florida on Feb. 18. The Gators scored their final 15 points from the free throw line.
For the Tigers and Tide, the only hope of an NCAA tournament berth is to win the title and secure the league's automatic berth. The Gators are trying to improve their credentials.
"We're going to get a hungry Florida team," Tigers coach Jeff Lebo said. "They're looking at this as a game where they're not sure whether they're in or out."