NASHVILLE, TN- Despite a sluggish start, Alabama cruised to a 72-61 win over Missouri thanks to a 16-3 second-half run led by the freshman All-American Brandon Miller who scored 20 points, had 12 rebounds and four assists. Miller set the school record for a freshman in wins for the Tide and it was a program-record 28th win as the Tide improved to 28-5 this season.
After starting 2-15 from three, Alabama hit 6-12 from three in the second half, and Miller hit three of his four attempts to score 16 points in the second half to pace the Tide after five minutes left in the second. halftime with nasty trouble.
“I really feel like my teammates built confidence in me, just to be able to take over the game. I feel like my teammates kept putting little words in my head just to build my confidence,” Miller said.
Miller has 645 points this season, ahead of Collin Sexton’s 632, who held the freshman record. The freshman calmly accepted the record and said it would have been impossible without his teammates.
“I mean, it’s a huge accomplishment. But without my team, I couldn’t have done it without them. They build my confidence, like I said. They’re just here for me, they just really build my confidence to break records like that. That’s the biggest thing,” Miller said.
Alabama’s Nate Oats is aiming to win his second consecutive SEC title as the regular season and tournament champion. He said he told his team going into the tournament that they would have to find different ways to win and they did so defensively Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.
“If you want to win a tournament, you’re going to have to do it in different ways. We’ve said it. We’ve found different ways to win,” Oats said. “We weren’t at our best today. I thought we came out of the gate pretty strong again, but we let up defensively in the first half. We weren’t great at the beginning of the second half. We were forced to call a timeout on the Inbound play. We chased our guys a little bit, good responded. It wasn’t just that we didn’t shoot. I know we didn’t shoot well in the first half. I think we were 2 of 15 from three. Clowney had our only two makes. He’s a confident kid.”
Every time Missouri cut into Bama Miller’s lead, Noah Clowney or even Noah Gurley matched with clutch baskets.
Clowney finished with 19 points and hit three of six three-pointers.
center of Alabama Karlo from Bedija was Alabama’s second double-digit scorer with 10 points, five rebounds, a block and a steal. He hit all five of his field goals.
Guard Jahvon Quinerly was less efficient for the Tide scoring but helped the offense move the ball with seven assists, shooting 0-9 with one point.
Doing the dirty work was Rylan Griffen who helped spark Alabama’s second-half run off the bench by moving the ball with four rebounds and two assists.
Defensively, Alabama held the Tigers to 31.4 percent shooting in the second half and just 3-13 from three. Missouri shot just 33.8 percent for the game and 25 percent (7-25) from three.
Turnovers by the Tide kept Missouri in the game as the Tigers scored 18 points on 17 turnovers by Alabama, Missouri had just five turnovers in the game.
Dear Hodge led Missouri with 21 points and nine rebounds, but DeAndre Holston and Nick Honor combined for 7-27 shooting and 20 points, including Honor missing all but one of his 10. All-Conference Missouri forward Kobe Brown who averages 16 points per game, was held in check by scoring just six points on 3-9 shooting and had four fouls in the game. Clowney said Brown’s defense was a major coaching point in the game and something the team was proud of.
“I think he’s a great player,” Clowney said of Brown. “As far as his defense, I think it was a five-man deal. A lot of things we do involve other people on the floor just to defend one player at a time. We did a great job on him as a team.”
The first half was not ideal for Alabama. The Tide committed nine turnovers, and with star Brandon Miller picking up two fouls and playing just 11 minutes with 4 points and eight rebounds, it was a pain. The Tide also shot a poor 2-15 from the arc. Noah Clowney led Bama with 11 points on 4-6 shooting and 2-4 three-pointers in the first half. D’Moi Hodge and Noah Carter each led Missouri with seven points, the Tigers hit 4-12 from three, including a prayer with two seconds on the clock for a late-half shot from Hodge to pull within 31-29 at the break.
Alabama will play for its second SEC Tournament title in three years at noon Sunday against the winner of the Vanderbilt-Texas A&M game.
The Tide opened the game shooting 0-8 and 2-11 to fall behind 7-5 at the first media timeout with 14:12 left in the first half. Alabama went on a 6-0 run as Missouri continued to struggle offensively leading to a Gates timeout with 12:05 left in the first half and the Tide up 11-7. It took 16 three-pointers by the two teams before Nick Honor hit Missouri’s first three of the game with 8:58 left in the half. Clowney’s 11th attempt of the game ended the Tide’s three-point streak. Alabama extended its lead to eight by the next media timeout 22-14 with 6:10 left. Missouri hit five of six shots to pull within three at the final media break with 1:13 left at 29-26. Hodge hit a prayer from the corner with two seconds left on the shot clock to make it 31-29 with 1.8 seconds left and that was the halftime score.
Missouri continued to push the Tide out of the half, taking a 32-31 lead by forcing an Oats timeout just over a minute into the first half. Quinlery turned the ball over on offense after a timeout and Missouri led 35-31. Miller responded with a hoop and damage by tying Collin Sexton’s freshman scoring record with his free throw to make it 35-34. Miller picked up his third foul at 17:51. Alabama regained the lead on a hoop and a fouled bucket by Clowney on a Rylan Griffen pass to make it 41-39. Miller extended the lead to five as he hit a 3-pointer to break Sexton’s freshman record to make it 44-39. The Tide went on a 14-3 run to take a 50-42 lead with 9:34 left, forcing Gates to take a timeout. The run extended to 16-3 and a 10-point lead for the Tide before Missouri was able to respond after three-plus minutes without a point. Alabama led 62-53 at the final media break with 3:40 left thanks to Clowney’s 3-pointer.