The best team in basketball history, Alabama, improved to 29-5 by beating Texas A&M in Sunday afternoon’s SEC tournament finals.
The Tide won 82-63, running late from the Aggies. For the second time in three years, Nate Oats and his team clinched double championships and won regular season and tournament crowns. TAMU fell to 25-9 on the season.
Now Bama is waiting for the selection show tonight at 5pm to see her total seeding and goal.
The team is definitely in first place overall and should be in Birmingham for the first round, followed by Louisville in the second round.
The Tide continued the starting lineup they used throughout the tournament: Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney and Brandon Miller made up the quintet. Since Quinerly replaced Jaden Bradley at the start of games, Bama hasn’t been bothered by the slow game starts that had become the norm of late.
After a bad day of shooting yesterday, the tide came out hot today. Sears, who was particularly cold, hit straight with a three-point shot for a quick 3-0 lead. Bediako came alive throughout the tournament, showing off his skills by blocking a shot on one end, running down the court and scoring on the other end.
Quinerly didn’t score a single field goal on Saturday but did make his three-pointer at 5:46 p.m., and an early Q goal always bodes well for the Tide.
Miller started the game as a field general rather than a mere goalscorer: crisp passing and directing. He then hit a three-point shot at 15:40 left, and the lead was 16-7. It looked like the start of a nice run, but soon Refball would emerge.
Miller was called out on two charges, one of which was dubious at best, for two minutes apiece and was knocked out of the game. Luckily, the defense of the tide, deeply entrenched by Bediako, was relentless. That was helped by Rylan Griffen, who broke out of his gunfight with a three-pointer, and Quinerly knocked down a few more.
With a 9:48 lead, the lead was 24-13 for the Tide.
Miller returned at 7:55 in the half. Bediako kept making his presence felt at both ends of the court and played the best basketball of his career in Alabama this weekend. When Miller made two free throws with 4:10 left, Bama held a 33-17 lead, with the Aggies going nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. As is their norm, A&M continued to get to the foul line. Miller was called for his third foul with 2:33 left and was seated for the remainder of the period.
At halftime, Tide had shot 11-27 for 41%, with 6-18 for 33% from deep and 6-10 from the charity streak. Bama had 21 rebounds, seven offensively, with five blocks, three steals, six assists and seven turnovers. Quinerly had 13 points on 5-8 shooting while Miller had eight with six boards and two assists. The Aggies shot 6-29 for 21%, 1-4 from the three-point range 10-12 off the line and had 20 rebounds, nine offensively with three steals, two assists and eight turnovers.
Bama started the second half with the same starting line-up. TAM scored the first goal and drew within nine points in a game where it felt like they should have been at least 20 points down. Quinerly, Miller, Clowney and Bediako made sure The Tide didn’t let the lead shrink any further.
With 12:35 left, the score was 47-38 and Miller began to heat up, scoring 11 points in six minutes. Even technical fouls on Quinerly and Oats couldn’t stem the tide. When Miller took off from the foul line and hammered home a defiant dunk, it was game over and Miller had the MVP award sewn in. Quinerly’s little brother, Jaden, even made the top scorer list, scoring the final tide point of the game with one of two free throws.
In the second half, The Tide shot 16-39 for 41%, 6-18 of three again and made 10-12 free throws. Overall, Bama finished 27-66 for 41%, 12-36 for 33% by Deep, and 16-22 for 73% by Stripe. The Tide had 50 rebounds, 21 offense, 16 assists, seven blocks, six steals and 12 turnovers.
Miller scored 23 despite shooting 5-20 from field, 4-14 from three-point range, and 9-10 from the free throw line. The superstar had another double-double with 12 rebounds and added four assists and three steals while struggling with fouls and playing just 30 minutes. Quinerly shot 8-14, 4-8 from deep and had 22 with three assists.
A steadfast man all weekend, Bediako had another double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and countless altered shots. The 7’0″ Canadian even added a few assists and The Tide shared the ball incredibly throughout the tournament. Clowney was limited to 19 minutes because of foul problems but had enough time to score nine points, snatch 11 rebounds and dish out three assists. Griffen got his touch back and had nine points in 20 minutes.
Miller was player of the match and Bediako took the hard hat.
Texas A&M shot 13-35 for 37% in the second, including 4-11 for 36% of three, and made 10-12 free throws. Overall, the Aggies shot just 30% at 19-64 from the floor and 5-15 from behind the arc. Buzz Ball relies on getting freebies, and A&M got to the line plentifully, where they made 20-24 free throws (83%). A&M 37 rebounds, 17 offense, only six assists, two blocks, five steals and 13 turnovers.
All-SEC guard Wade Taylor IV was held on 13 pints on 3-11 shooting while Tyrece Bradford shot 4-16 for 12 points and Dexter Dennis 4-12 for 14 points. Those three had big games last week as the Aggies beat the Tide in the final (meaningless) game of the regular season.
After the game, Miller said, “The mission isn’t over, we still have a few games left” and that “being home (he’s from the Nashville area) was huge, I had my whole family here with me. When asked about the possibility of playing in Birmingham, Miller said the Bama fans would definitely show up there.
Bediako, Quinerly, and Miller were all named to the All-Tournament Team, with Miller also being named Most Valuable Player. They were joined by Taylor IV, Ezra Manjon of Vanderbilt, and D’Moi Hodge of Missouri.
This was the Tide’s eighth SEC tournament title, second-highest behind only Kentucky (a true Blue Blood, not a made-up year-old miracle). Oats has now won nine straight games in the city of Nashville, three in Vanderbilt and six in the SEC tournament. The team’s 29 wins are the most in school history.
Miller showed exactly what I felt this summer watching a team practice session. After 30 minutes I texted the group and told them that Brandon was the best player to ever wear the Crimson uniform. I’ve been going to games at Coleman – nope Memorial Coliseum – for over 50 years and have seen them all except the Rocket Eight.
I stand by my proclamation. Miller is the best player to ever wear a crimson jersey.
Quinerly fought back from a devastating injury and embraced his role, and he now appears to be March JQ again. Bediako blossoms before our eyes, Clowney is a likely choice for the first round, and the other characters take turns.
This is a team built for a long run, with tough veterans, a superstar, and plenty of depth and versatility. As has been said several times, defense wins the game and the three-point shot simply determines how much.
What an exciting time to be an Alabama basketball fan!