‘Bama bulldozes Bulldogs in SEC Tournament

Published 4:57 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Alabama bulldozed the Bulldogs and plowed right on ahead toward a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Brandon Miller had 18 points and nine rebounds, and No. 4 Alabama never trailed in posting a 72-49 victory over Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday.

The top-seeded Crimson Tide (27-5) set the pace in the first half by hitting 8 of 20 shots from long range. Charles Bediako and Noah Gurley added 11 points apiece for Alabama, and Jahvon Quinerly scored 10.

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Alabama won its 12th game this season by 20 points or more. It will play No. 25 Missouri in the semifinals on Saturday. Missouri beat Tennessee 79-71 in another quarterfinal on Friday.

“I thought our guys did a good job opening the game,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I thought we did a good job closing the half. I think over the final 12 minutes of the first half, they were 3-for-19. We went into the half great.”

The Bulldogs (21-12) were scoreless in their first six possessions including a pair of turnovers. They hit 8 of 31 field goal attempts and missed all five of their shots from 3-point range. For the game, they shot 31 percent from the field and hit only 1 of 13 attempts from 3-point range.

Tolu Smith led Mississippi State with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Dashawn Davis scored 13 points.

“It was a tough day,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “We’re best when we get off to a really good start. Obviously, we didn’t. They had great energy out of the locker room. They kind of punched us in the face. We were playing from behind, playing uphill all night long.”

Alabama led 41-21 at halftime, too big an advantage for Mississippi State to overcome with the Crimson Tide opening up a 25-point lead with 1:14 left on a layup by Nimari Burnette on a fastbreak.

With 5:40 remaining, Mississippi State trimmed the Crimson Tide’s lead to 57-43 on a layup by D.J. Jeffries. The Bulldogs would not get any closer.

The Crimson Tide made a season-high 20 assists.

“Our guys are unselfish, they move the ball, they care about each other,” Oats said. “We only had seven turnovers. I thought our guards did a great job of taking care of the ball.”

Mississippi State appeared to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a second-round win over Florida on Thursday, but missed a chance to earn another huge victory against a top opponent. The Bulldogs will now need to wait until Sunday to find out if they did enough to slide into the 68-team field.

“I personally say for me I think we have a really good résumé. I think we have some really good wins early in the season, even late in the season. I think we had a well-rounded season,” Smith said. “But it’s not for me to decide. It’s for the guys on the panel. We’re just going to wait till Selection Sunday.”