NASHVILLE — Seconds after Noah Gurley’s 3-pointer dropped through the net and Missouri called a futile timeout, Brandon Miller turned to the Alabama crowd at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.


For Miller, after a typically grueling test from Dennis Gates’ seasoned Missouri Tigers, Alabama’s mid-2nd-half run is what he’d prefer to be talking about. Much of Miller’s time is spent on topics other than Alabama’s perimeter shooting or his own all-around defensive effort, significantly outplaying Mizzou’s Kobe Brown a day after Brown led the Tigers to a victory over Tennessee.

The off-the-court circus that follows Alabama makes what happens between the lines, where the Crimson Tide advanced a step closer to claiming a 2nd SEC Tournament championship in 3 seasons, that much sweeter. Between the lines, the other topics fade away and he’s Brandon Miller, the SEC Player of the Year on the SEC’s best team.

And now a team that will play for an SEC Tournament title on Sunday afternoon after Saturday’s 72-61 victory over the 4th-seeded Tigers.

Miller credited the crowd afterward for having a significant role in the Tide’s success, saying of the vocal support that he stoked: “I love it. For them to come from Tuscaloosa to Nashville, it’s probably the biggest thing I’ve seen all year.”

Buoyed by the support, Miller showed plenty of his all-around game, dropping in 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds despite being somewhat limited by foul trouble. Miller had plenty of company, with fellow freshman Noah Clowney chipping in 19 points and sophomore center Charles Bediako adding 10 points and 5 rebounds.

Missouri scrapped to within a basket of the Tide at halftime and held the lead for much of the early 2nd half, taking a 39-36 edge with 14:23 to play.

“I thought our offense was pretty bad early,” admitted Tide coach Nate Oats. “We need to play more aggressive on offense.”

A directive that Miller certainly took to heart in the game’s deciding moments. A layup for Miller was followed by a Clowney 3-point play. Miller then made a 3-point bucket, and after a Mizzou answer from Noah Carter, Miller then made another. Seconds later, he found Gurley for another trey, and Mizzou’s 3-point edge had become an 8-point Tide lead.

THAT was what Brandon Miller was talking about.

After a 2-for-20 start from long range, the decisive run emphasized Oats’ green-light approach to the long bomb.

“We kept saying at every timeout, we are not turning down an open three,” said Oats. “If you get an open catch-and-shoot three, I don’t care what you are, 0-for-whatever. I am never second-guessing an open catch and shoot.”

After Miller’s barrage, Missouri never climbed closer than a 6-point gap despite 21 points and 9 rebounds from D’Moi Hodge. Alabama outrebounded Mizzou, 44-28, which helped to offset 17 Tide turnovers. As did a 6-for-12 2nd half from 3-point range.

It was a historic game for Miller, too, as his 645 points on the season set a new program freshman scoring record, eclipsing former Bama standout Collin Sexton’s mark. LSU’s Cam Thomas still holds the conference mark, but Miller could have plenty more basketball left to play.

For his part, Oats encouraged Tide faithful to appreciate the moment.

“These SEC championship games don’t come often,” he said.

With 1 lone loss in the SEC finale between 1992 and Oats’ hiring, the statistical truth of his comment speaks for itself.

Alabama will go into Sunday afternoon looking to deliver the school’s 8th SEC Tournament title.

And once again, for a few hours, it’ll all be about basketball.

Which is what Brandon Miller would prefer to be talking about.