Shelton Leads Tide Over Ole Miss in SEC Tournament, 69-52


Friday, March 11, 2005

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Earnest Shelton

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By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- Earnest Shelton scored 26 points, most of them on a career-high eight 3-pointers, and No. 20 Alabama cruised into the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament with a 69-52 victory over Mississippi on Friday.

The Crimson Tide (21-9) buried Ole Miss from beyond the arc, thwarting every comeback attempt with a long-range shot. Alabama was 13-of-25 from 3-point range.

No one was more accurate than Shelton, whose 8-of-11 performance eclipsed the seven 3s he had against Florida last season.

Alabama, which already seems assured of an NCAA bid, will meet either Florida or Mississippi State on Saturday. This is only the second time in a decade that the Crimson Tide has gotten as far as the semifinals of the conference tourney.

Three years ago, Alabama lost to Mississippi State in the championship game.

Ole Miss (14-17), which upset South Carolina in the opening round, stayed within range of Alabama most of the game. Tommie Eddie hit a jumper with 8:45 remaining to pull the Rebels to 48-43, but Ronald Steele answered with a 3 for the Tide.

When Ed Glass sank a couple of free throws to shrink Alabama's lead to 51-45, Shelton responded by swishing another shot from outside the arc. Finally, the senior guard finished off the Rebels with his seventh trey, giving the Tide a 61-47 cushion with three minutes to go.

Alabama's victory was no surprise. The Crimson Tide swept the regular-season series between the Western Division rivals, winning 66-58 on the road and routing the Rebels in Tuscaloosa, 71-45.

The teams swapped the lead seven times in the first half before Alabama gained the upper hand in the final three minutes. Naturally, it was Shelton doing the damage with a 3-pointer, putting the Tide ahead 25-21.

Shelton then came up with a steal, leading to a layup for Justin Jonus. Kennedy Winston sent Alabama off the court with a 27-21 halftime lead by drawing a charge from Eddie with 0.9 seconds remaining.

Eddie led the Rebels with 19 points and Glass added 14, but none of their teammates had more than six.

Alabama bounced back from a poor-shooting first half to hit 57 percent (13-of-23) over the final 20 minutes. Chuck Davis had 15 points and Jean Felix 10, while Steele doled out seven assists.

(All photos by Kent Gidley)

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Assistant coaches Tom Asbury, Darron Boatright, and Philip Pearson.

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The Tide bench watches the action.

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Evan Brock fights for the ball under the basket.

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Evan Brock drives toward the basket.

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Chuck Davis muscles up a shot under the hoop.

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Chuck Davis fights for a rebound.

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Chuck Davis records one of his five blocks on the day.

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Jean Felix moves around a Rebel defender.

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Jean Felix looks for an open man.

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Coach Gottfried yells out his instructions.

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Justin Jonus looks to pass as he goes airborne.

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Earnest Shelton tied the SEC Tournament record with eight 3-pointers.

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Earnest Shelton lays one up and in.

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Ronald Steele fights for a loose ball.

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Gary Waites is representing Alabama as an SEC legend this weekend.

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Kennedy Winston slashes to the basket.

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Kennedy Winston lays it in.

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Kennedy Winston chats with an official.

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Kennedy Winston uses the glass for two points.