NASHVILLE, Tenn. – All year, University of Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson has wondered what would happen if his team put together a good first half with a good second half.
On Thursday afternoon, he found out.
The Crimson Tide built a 12-point first-half lead then went on a 15-0 run in the second half to bury Mississippi State 75-55 and advance to the quarterfinals and a rematch with No. 4 seed South Carolina, a team that UA edged in four overtimes earlier this season.
“That was a pretty good performance for us on both ends of the floor,” Johnson said. “We thought we set a great time for the pace we wanted to play this game. We were good on offense and physical on defense and we didn’t foul as much as we have been fouling.”
Alabama got a near-flawless performance from freshman point guard Dazon Ingram, who scored 17 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field and played 27 minutes without committing a turnover.
“We ran the first play of the game for Dazon,” Johnson said. “He passed up a couple of shots in our last game (a loss at Tennessee) and I didn’t like his rationale for that. We needed him to be aggressive, even if he’s a little overaggressive, because we know how good he can be offensively.”
In addition to Ingram’s 17 points, Alabama got 14 points from guard Corban Collins off the bench.
“They concentrated on Dazon and Braxton (Key) and that left shooting lanes open for the other players,” Collins said. “The coaches were telling me to let it go, and saying ‘Shooters shoot.’
“The coaches talked about learning from the regular season and not repeating the same mistakes. So we really concentrated on playing both halves.”
Mississippi State could come no closer than 10 points, 37-27, in the second half but at that point, the Crimson Tide’s 15-0 run stretched the lead to 25 points and Alabama coasted from there.
“Give Alabama a lot of credit,” said MSU head coach Ben Howland. “They’re a big, physical team — the best defensive team in our league — and it really showed.
“Ingram was terrific tonight. His size was really a factor for us.”
Freshman Tyson Carter led MSU (16-16) with 13 points.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.