Mizzou basketball’s SEC tournament ride stops short in semifinal loss to Alabama

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Playing in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals for the first time, the No. 25 Missouri Tigers traded blows with top-seeded Alabama on Saturday but fell a day short of cutting down the nets at Bridgestone Arena, losing to the SEC regular-season champions 72-61.

In a rematch of No. 4 Alabama’s 21-point win back on Jan. 21, the Tigers had All-SEC forward Kobe Brown in the lineup this time — he missed the first game with an ankle injury — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Crimson Tide’s combination of  swarming length on defense and offensive firepower.

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With the loss, the Tigers (24-9) will return home to learn their NCAA Tournament destination during Sunday’s selection show. Saturday’s credible showing against a likely No. 1 overall seed and Friday’s victory over No. 17 Tennessee, MU’s second this season over the Volunteers, likely put Dennis Gates’ team in position to avoid the dreaded 8-9 game on the NCAA bracket.

In Sunday’s SEC tournament title game, Alabama (28-5) will face the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between Texas A&M (24-8) and local favorite Vanderbilt (20-13). The championship game tips off at noon on ESPN.

D’Moi Hodge followed his brilliant game Friday with a team-high 21 points, while DeAndre Gholston added 17. Brown finished with just six points.

For the Crimson Tide, back-to-back 3-pointers by SEC player of the year Brandon Miller and Noah Gurley ignited the Alabama half of the crowd midway through the second half, just as the Tigers’ offense stalled in the halfcourt. With Alabama ahead 52-42 thanks to a 16-3 run, Mizzou went more than three minutes without a point, missing 12 of 14 shots.

As Gates called a timeout with 9:34 left, Miller turned to the Alabama crowd behind press row and roared, “Let’s (expletive) go!” The Bama party was just getting started.

Miller, playing in foul trouble early, finished with 20 points while freshman forward Noah Clowney added 19.

After a brutal shooting start, both teams settled in for the rest of the first half with Alabama clinging to a 31-29 lead at the break. But the Tigers captured all the momentum late, finishing the half on a 13-5 run, punctuated by an improbable corner 3-pointer by Hodge to beat the shot-clock buzzer with 1.8 seconds left in the half. Hodge snatched a cross-court inbounds pass then somehow twisted and turned just enough to flick a 3-pointer in from the corner.

Earlier in the half, Brown took a spill grabbing a steal but managed to unload a pass to Hodge for a fast-break dunk but not before taking a shot to the head. Gates helped him up off the floor but Brown stayed in the game.

The Tigers caught a break with Miller picking up two fouls that limited him to just 11 minutes of action in the first half.

Mizzou rummaged close enough to the paint through Alabama’s forest of tall defenders to get 13 shots at the rim but missed 6 of 10 layups.

The Tigers carried over their surge to start the second half, opening with a 6-0 run and, even better for their cause, Gholston drew Miller’s third foul three minutes into the half on a post-up and three-point play. The Tigers continued to go at Miller to draw his fourth foul, but the whistle never came. Instead the final horn sounded on Mizzou’s tournament run. 

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2023-03-11 20:04:00