NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)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 hitting 8-of-20 shots from long range. Charles Bediako and Noah Gurley added 11 points apiece for Alabama, and Jahvon Quinerly scored 10.
Alabama will play No. 25 Missouri, a 79-71 winner over 17th-ranked Tennessee, in the semifinal on Saturday.
“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.”
Oats had hoped to rest his starters after the first four minutes of the second half but Tolu Smith got hot and changed those plans.
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.
“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.”
Smith led Mississippi State with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Dashawn Davis scored 13 points.
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: Shot 31% from the field and hit only one of 13 attempts from 3-point range.
Alabama: Miller, a hometown player, and his team received their share of boos from the crowd.
Miller has continued to play even after Tuscaloosa Police investigator Brandon Culpepper testified that Miller brought a gun to former teammate Darius Miles, who was indicted on capital murder charges this week in the January death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris near the Alabama campus. Michael Davis also was indicted.
Miller has not been charged. He declined to discuss the case in the postgame news conference, which was dominated by questions about the situation. Oats said during postgame remarks that the situation has been “tragic” and that it’s “a private matter.”
Mississippi State: Hopes to hear its name called Sunday as part of the NCAA Tournament field.
Alabama: Moves onto the SEC semifinals Saturday against either Tennessee – which beat Alabama 68-59 on Feb. 15 in Knoxville – or Missouri, which was routed on its own court by the Crimson Tide 85-64 on Jan. 21. —
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