Second-half surge sends Tide past Mizzou to champ game
9 hours ago
Grace Wesoly | SEC Staff
Nashville, Tenn. — No. 1 seed Alabama (28-5, 16-2 SEC) earned its SEC Tournament title bid with an explosive second-half performance in the 72-61 win over No. 4 seed Missouri in the semifinals of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
With the semifinal win, the Tide improves to 28-5 this season, its most wins in a season in program history.
Despite scoring 18 off 17 Alabama turnovers and snagging 10 steals, the Tigers couldn’t make up the difference as they were outrebounded, 44-28, and outscored. The Tide shifted after halftime, shooting 55.6% from the field in the second half as they hit six of their eight 3-pointers during that half.
All of Brandon Miller’s skills were on full display during his eighth double-double performance (20 points, 12 rebounds) with four assists and three 3-pointers, passing Collin Sexton for the most points scored in a season by an Alabama freshman.
Noah Clowney joined the effort behind the arc, draining three from afar while scoring 19. Charles Bediako tacked on 10 points along with five boards as Jahvon Quinerly dished out seven assists.
D’Moi Hodge did most of the damage for the Tigers, logging 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting with three from distance and grabbing nine off the glass.
DeAndre Gholston wasn’t far behind with 17 points as Noah Carter tacked on 10. Kobe Brown took control on the boards with seven rebounds while contributing six points.
After missed threes from both ends of the court to open the contest, Brown turned up the heat with a fast-break flush to put Mizzou on the board first. Within the first five minutes of play, Alabama sent off eight from deep without a single shot finding the net.
The Tide seemed to flip a switch during the Tigers’ media timeout, firing off a quick six points to snag a small lead, 11-7, forcing Dennis Gates to call another timeout in an effort to freeze their momentum.
Honor took the opportunity to show Alabama how it’s done from behind the arc, splashing the first 3-pointer of the game as Missouri closed to within 13-12 with 8:58 left in the opening half.
But Clowney appeared unfazed as he finally connected on the Tide’s 11th 3-point attempt. They went on to establish their first double-digit lead, 24-14, capped by Quinerly’s alley-oop to Pringle at the 5:36 mark.
The Tigers worked to flip the momentum as Carter slammed one down and Brown swiped the ball away on Alabama’s following possession, passing it down the court to Hodge for an uncontested dunk to bring them in range at 29-26. However, the Tide wouldn’t give up the halftime momentum that easily as Quinerly tossed yet another alley-oop dunk to Bediako.
And yet, Mizzou pressed on with a shining play to take into halftime. Sean East II chucked the ball inbounds across the court to a quick-moving Hodge. The drive carried him away from the basket as he sent up a shot in mid-air, leaping out of bounds. The outrageous 3-pointer brought the Tigers within two, 31-29, before the break.
The Tide led for a large majority of the half with Clowney’s 11 leading their offensive charge. Miller came up big off the boards in the first, grabbing eight as they outrebounded the Tigers, 25-12. Missouri fought to stay in the game with its four steals, only committing two turnovers to Alabama’s nine.
Alabama appeared flustered entering the second half, calling a timeout shortly after Hodge drained a three to snag the lead. The Tigers seemed to sense the discomfort, tacking on a three-point play by Gholston and refusing to give up the advantage as both teams struggled to find the net in the ensuing minutes.
But Alabama would turn things around as Clowney laid one in and completed the three-point play from the free throw line to take back the lead, 41-39. Miller and Carter went on to exchange threes, sending them both into double-digit scoring while riling up both ends of the arena.
Midway through the second half, the Tide finally found their rhythm from deep, drilling two 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to widen the gap, 50-42, as Gates called time to break up their flow to little avail. The Tigers managed to cut the deficitt to six with just over four minutes left to play, but a determined Alabama quickly reestablished a double-digit advantage.
Clowney’s third triple followed up by a Bediako dunk made it an 11-point lead, 64-53, with 3:30 remaining. Miller went on to log his third 3-pointer before Noah Gurley closed out the Tide’s offensive surge with a slam from off the glass that closed the door on Missouri’s chances.
Alabama will face the winner of Game 12 between 2-seed Texas A&M and 6-seed Vanderbilt in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The game will be aired on ESPN.
Missouri (24-9, 11-7 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament and awaits when and where it will play in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.