ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Mustapha Heron scored a team-high 18 points and added five rebounds, but No. 1 seed Auburn fell to No. 9 seed Alabama, 81-63, in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Tigers (25-7) were limited to 32 percent shooting in the game, including 24 percent from behind the arc.
“It was a tale of two halves,” head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We did what we wanted to do in the first half. I thought we executed pretty well. We shot it well, which is what we needed to do. I thought the zone was effective. We made some really good effort, energy plays. We had 15 defensive rebounds and they only had 2 offensive rebounds. I thought we really played well.
“At the start of the second half, they came down and flipped the table on us really quickly. We didn’t get as good of looks offensively early, but I just remember our zone wasn’t nearly as effective, and they made some shots and got a couple of loose balls, and next thing you know, it’s close. … We just didn’t have it in the second half tonight.”
Desean Murray poured in 15 points and contributed a team-best eight rebounds, while Bryce Brown scored 11.
Jared Harper was Auburn’s top assist man with four dimes.
The Tigers were able to control the game in the first half and reached their biggest advantage of 10 at 27-17 following a 3-pointer by Harper.
A pair of free throws by Murray capped the opening period of play with Auburn maintaining a 41-31 lead into the locker room.
Alabama (19-14) came out of the gates on fire in the second half and used a 20-1 run to hold a 51-42 lead just in 7:38.
Auburn’s first field goal came on a jumper by Heron at the midway point with the Crimson Tide holding a 13-point margin.
Alabama would continue to extend its lead to as much as 22 before taking the result to move on to the semifinals, 81-63.
The Crimson Tide were led by Collin Sexton’s 31 points on 10 of 16 from the field. Dazon Ingram also added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Tigers will await their fate in the NCAA Tournament with the Selection Show set to air on TBS at 5 p.m. CT.