Brandon Miller’s Double-Double Leads Alabama to SEC Championship Game
By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer
Alabama coach Nate Oats has one request of Crimson Tide fans: Make the short drive to Music City and pack the arena Sunday for the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game.
That came after freshman Brandon Miller scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help fourth-ranked Alabama advance Saturday by beating No. 25 Missouri 72-61.
Alabama (28-5) will play Sunday in its 15th tournament championship game against No. 18 Texas A&M, a 87-75 winner over Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide is looking for an eighth title to add to its regular-season trophy.
In calling people to come to Nashville, Oats recalled how pandemic restrictions limited the number of fans here in 2021 the last time Alabama won both the regular-season title and the tournament title.
“These are not easy to make it to,” Oats said. “We’ve had two tough games to get there. We’ll have a really tough game whoever we end up playing tomorrow. If people ask me who do I want to play, I don’t think that’s a good question because, whoever I want to, doesn’t matter.”
Noah Clowney added 19 points for Alabama, and Charles Bediako had 10.
Clowney’s three-point play put Alabama ahead to stay at 40-39 before Miller knocked down back-to-back 3s, the first giving him the Tide’s freshman scoring record. Gurley added a 3, then Bediako’s layup with 8:42 left matched Alabama’s biggest lead of the game at 52-42.
“We feed off them,” Miller said of Saturday’s fan support. “They give us the energy that we need.”
Alabama led 31-29 at halftime after Missouri finished the half on a 13-5 run. Hodge, a senior guard, capped the spurt with an amazing 3-pointer off a cross-court inbound pass from Sean East II, turning in mid-air and knocking down the shot over Clowney’s hand with 1.8 seconds left.
Alabama continues to win and chase a top seeding in the NCAA Tournament despite a season that has been challenging. Former Tide player Darius Miles and another man were indicted earlier this week on capital murder charges for the January shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris.
In February, an investigator testified that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun. Police also said that Jaden Bradley also was at the scene. Neither Miller nor Bradley have been charged, and both have been playing — Miller, especially.
Alabama easily dominated on the boards (44-28), but couldn’t convert on the extra chances. The Tide was outscored 8-9 by Missouri on second-chance points. Miller easily set the program record for points in a freshman season after coming in seven shy of matching Collin Sexton’s mark of 632 in 2017-18.
Both teams struggled to shoot outside the arc early, combining to miss the first 15 3s. Alabama finished 8 of 27 from 3 but hit six of its final seven.
“Alabama was able to get to their sweet spot,” Gates said.
Alabama will try to finish off another SEC double-dip Sunday in the tourney title game against Texas A&M.
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)