PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Freshman Brandon Miller scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half, and No. 18 Alabama drew 81-70 against No. 12 Michigan State in the opening round of the Phil Knight Invitational Thursday night.
After a rather loose schedule in the first few weeks, Alabama (5-0) passed its first test of the season against the under-manned Spartans (3-2).
Miller, the country’s top freshman at more than 20 points per game, was great in the first 20 minutes before receiving assists on goal in the second half. He ended his big first half with a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Crimson Tide a 42-37 lead at the break.
Noah Gurley added 12 points, and Noah Clowney and Jahvon Quinerly both finished with 10 points.
Tyson Walker led Michigan State with 21 points and AJ Hoggard added 18. Leader Joey Hauser had several serious falls on the court and was just one of six shooters. He finished with nine points.
Michigan State also played without forward Malik Hall after the school announced he would be sidelined for about three weeks due to a stress reaction in his left foot. The Spartans were also without guard Jaden Akins with an ankle injury.
Hall averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in four games this season. playing almost 32 minutes per game.
Alabama was slowly building its halftime lead, but it was a three-minute sequence that the tide finally built a cushion. Quinerly hit a 3-pointer from the wing to increase Alabama’s lead to 11. Jaden Bradley followed, intercepting a pass in midfield, and his layup gave the Tide a 62-49 lead with 11:50 to go.
After a time out, Quinerly completed a layup, Nimari Burnett hit a 3, and Alabama had their biggest lead at 18. The Spartans closed within eight in the closing minutes but couldn’t get past 33% shooting in the second half.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s athleticism was evident from the start. Alabama’s first three baskets made were dunks and it had five for the game.
Michigan State: The Spartans continued their brutal preseason schedule with a third game against a ranked opponent. The Spartans have previously played two teams that ranked in the top five at the time they met, then No. 2 Gonzaga and then No. 4 Kentucky.
Alabama: Faces No. 20 UConn in Friday’s semifinals.
Michigan State: Faces Oregon in a consolation game on Friday.
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