ATLANTA (AP) -- Mark Gottfried should have yanked Earnest Shelton
out of the game.
Now, the Alabama coach has to share a spot with Shelton in the
school record book.
The senior guard made a career-high eight 3-pointers during a
26-point performance Friday that pushed the Crimson Tide (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) to
a 69-52 victory over Mississippi and into the semifinals of the
Southeastern Conference tournament.
Shelton tied the tournament record for 3-pointers, joining three
other players, and matched the school's co-record holders --
Gottfried and Alvin Lee. Gottfried now coaches the Crimson Tide
"I should have taken him out," Gottfried quipped.
The Crimson Tide buried Ole Miss from beyond the arc, thwarting
every comeback attempt with a long-range shot. Alabama was 13-of-25
No one was more accurate than Shelton, whose 8-of-11 performance
eclipsed the seven 3s he had against Florida in last year's SEC
"He kind of got in that zone," Gottfried said. "He looked at
me a couple of times and wanted me to call the same plays for him.
He wanted the ball."
Alabama, which already seems assured of an NCAA bid, will meet
Florida on Saturday. This is only the second time in a decade that
the Crimson Tide has gotten as far as the semifinals of the
Three years ago, Alabama lost to Mississippi State in the
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. He finished off the Rebels with his seventh trey,
giving the Tide a 61-47 cushion with three minutes to go, and made
his last one with 31 seconds to go.
"I put up a couple of them that when they left my hand, I knew
they were going in," Shelton said.
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.
Ole Miss had no chance the way Shelton was shooting.
"He just made shots," said Rebels coach Rod Barnes, who got a
four-year contract extension just before the tournament. "He made
shots over us. He had a great day. That's what you expect from
Shelton got in a rhythm right from the start, hitting four
3-pointers in the first half.
"He had some open looks early," Barnes said. "Sometimes, he
just propelled over the top of us and made shots. There's not much
you can do about that."
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.
"He just had a great game," Mississippi's Kendrick Fox said.
"He was making us pay. Everything he threw up went in."
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
Eddie led the Rebels with 19 points and Glass added 14, but none
of their teammates had more than six.
"We won the game when we didn't play very well," Gottfried
said, "and that's the sign of a good team."