The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, running the 9th seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs off the court 72-49 on Friday.
It wasn't MSU’s fault they were next on the schedule. Alabama has lost five games this season and have won the next game after by a total of 151 points.
The Tide will play the winner of 4th seeded Missouri and 5th seeded Tennessee on Saturday at noon CT.
Coach Nate Oats inserted Jahvon Quinerly into the starting lineup in place of Jaden Bradley, and partnered him with Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller. The team has been plagued by slow starts at the end of the season and had trailed at half time in the last five games.
Quinerly gave the team a quick jolt right out of the game, making at three pointer at the 18:50 mark for a 5-0 Bama lead. When Miller nailed a shot from behind the arc the lead was 10-4 and basically the game was over. Noah Gurley came out of hibernation and made a three pointer of his own, and went on to play his most minutes in the last few weeks.
After a hot start, the Tide preceded to miss 11 of their next 12 shots and still lead 21-13 with 7:48 left in the half. Dom Welch entered and made a three on a great pass from Miller. Gurley and Bediako added hoops before Miller heated up and scored eight points in about a two minute span. At the half, the Tide led 41-21.
In the first period, the Tide shot 16-35 for 46% including 8-20 for 40% from three and made 1-3 free throws. Bama had 22 rebounds, four blocks, three steals, 12 assists, and only three turnovers. Miller had 11 points, eight rebounds, and four assists at the break. Quinlery added eight and Bediako had nine points and four rebounds. Eleven Bama players saw action in the first half.
State shot 8-31 for 26%, 0-5 from deep, and 5-5 from the free throw line. The Dogs had 21 rebounds, two blocks, two steals, one assist, and seven turnovers.
The same starters came out for the second half for the Tide. Miller fed Bediako for another hoop and made a circus basket of his own by tipping in an alley-oop pass with his left hand.
With a 50-27 lead at the 15:43 mark, Oats went with a lineup of Gurley, Bradley, Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen, and Nimari Burnett for an extended period of time. With 10 minutes left the score was 54-35.
With 6:38 remaining Sears, Miller, and Quinerly reentered the game, and put the game away for good. Sears kept firing until he made a shot, his lone make of the day, with 3:45 left. Clowney made his only three, and Miller closed things out with another from long range and two free throws. Griffen finally made a fade away jumper for his only basket for the teams last points of the game.
The Tide shot 11-32 for 34 in the half with 5-17 for 29% from three and 4-6 free throws. Overall Bama shot 27-67 for 40%, 13-37 for 35% from deep, and 5-9 free throws. Alabama finished with 42 rebounds, 14 offensively, had seven steals, six blocks, 21 assists, and only seven turnovers.
Individually Miller led the charge with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and a steal while shooting 6-14 with 4-9 from three point range. Bediako had possibly the best game of his Alabama career with 11 points, six rebounds, a steal, an assists, and five rebounds. Gurley, after not even playing in several games down the stretch, had 11 points while making 3-4 three point attempts. Quinerly added 10 points and four assists with two steals.
MSU shot 10-27 for 37% in the second half with 1-8 from three and 7-11 from the line. Overall the Dogs shot 18-58 for 31%, 1-13 from three for 8%, and 12-16 from the stripe. State tied the rebounding battle with 42 with 14 of them being offensive. The Bulldogs had six blocks, five steals, four assists, and 12 turnovers. Tolu Smith had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Oats had several things happen that the team needed to happen. Number one, a fast start. Second, the return of the team’s shooting eye from long range. Number Three: a big lead throughout the game, so that key players could rest their legs for the possibility of three games in three days.
The fourth-year had coach had praise for his teams unselfishness, mentioning the Gurley never had a bad attitude about not playing in some of the last few games and continued to encourage his teammates. Oats also said that Bradley wasn't down about Quinerly replacing him in the starting lineup, that the whole team loves each other and just want the team to succeed, no matter who gets the credit.
Ten players played 10 minutes or more, with Welch adding seven minutes before getting hurt and having to go the locker room after taking a hard foul. Miller only played 28 minutes instead of his usually 35, and Quinerly played 29 minutes, several minutes above his average. Miller was the player of the game and Bediako won the hard hat award on his 21st birthday.
Next Up: Winner of Tennessee—Missouri at 12 noon CT on Saturday. The team looks refocused and primed for a deep run in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments.