1-seed Bama bests 9-seed MS State with 3-point barrage
Nashville, Tenn. --- No. 1 seed Alabama (27-5, 16-2 SEC) shows out with a 72-49 rout of No. 9 seed Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Alabama's multi-faceted attack struck in transition with a 20-2 edge on fastbreak points and 19 points off the Bulldogs' turnovers. The Tide drained an impressive 13 shots from beyond the arc while limiting Mississippi State to its season-low scoring and only four assists.
Brandon Miller records team highs in multiple categories with 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists, becoming the first Alabama player with 15+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 5+ assists in an SEC Tournament game over the last 25 years. He also led the Tide's efforts from distance with four of their 13 3-pointers.
Three others scored double digits for Alabama: Charlie Bediako (11 points, six rebounds, five blocks), Jahvo Quinerly (10 points, four assists) and Noah Gurley (11 points).
Tolu Smith took charge for the Bulldogs, scoring 17 with nine free throws and grabbing 11 boards. Dashawn Davies proved to be their other driving force with 13 points. DJ Jeffries followed Smith on the boards with seven rebounds while scoring seven.
The Crimson Tide came on to the court with clear intentions of showing off what exactly it is that makes them top-seed regular-season champs.
Alabama's accuracy from depth made the difference in the first half as an explosive 7-0 run kick started its dominant offense. The Bulldogs managed to lay in a few shots but were not match for the Tide's three-point barrage which controlled the first few minutes of the matchup. A couple of baskets by Davis and a pair of free throws by Smith brought the Bulldogs within five, 18-13, before an 8-0 run, including a beautiful shot beyond the arc by Welch at the 6:30 mark, set the Tide apart again, 26-13.
Davis cashed in a jumper in an attempt to break up Alabama's rhythm, but Miller shut it down with another 3-pointer. The Bulldogs persisted to little avail as the Tide continued to make it rain from distance. Miller drilled his third triple on a fast break with only 18 seconds left in the first, bringing the crowd to their feet in an uproar. Alabama entered the half with a 20-point lead, 41-21, marking the sixth time this season it has led an SEC opponent by 20+ points at the half.
The Tide sent off 20 shots from behind the arc in the first half, draining eight of them, compared to Mississippi State's five missed attempts. By halftime, Alabama had racked up 12 assists, heavily outweighing the Bulldogs' singular assist, and dominated overall shooting from the field (45.7% to 25.8%).
Miller opened up the second-half scoring with his fifth assist of the game, floating a pass to Bediako for a smooth layup before finding the basket on his own with a fastbreak layup off Bediako's steal. Quinerly laid another in to secure Alabama's second largest lead of the game at a 24-point advantage, 47-23, with 17:12 to go.
As the Tide began to fill in from the bench, Mississippi State started to chip away from the free throw line, dropping in six along with a couple two-point shots, to bring their deficit under 20, 52-33, with 13:51 remaining. The Bulldogs would cause some back-and-forth shooting, but, ultimately, the Crimson Tide continued their reign from depth, hitting back-to-back triples by Mark Sears and Noah Clowney to establish a 63-43 advantage with less than four minutes to play.
Alabama went on a 13-2 run fueled by its trademark 3-pointers and reached its largest lead of the contest with a 25-point advantage before Smith jammed one final dunk and finalized the score, 72-49, to advance the Tide in the SEC Tournament.
Alabama will face the winner of Game 8 between 4-seed Missouri and 5-seed Tennessee in the semifinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Saturday at 1pm ET -- the game will be aired on ESPN.
Mississippi State (21-12, 8-10 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament.