ALABAMA 81, AUBURN 63

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Alabama's Collin Sexton, right, heads to the basket as Auburn's Horace Spencer defends during the second half in an NCAA college basketball quarterfinal game at the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in St. Louis. Alabama won 81-63. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — One of the lasting images of this first-ever SEC Tournament in St. Louis has to be Bruce Pearl ranting on the sideline after the game and escorted away by security.

Pearl was upset not only that his team was outscored 50-22 in the second half of an 81-63 loss to Alabama, but that something happened in the handshake line.

It involved Alabama strength coach Lou Deneen.

“As I’m walking back to our locker room, a gentlemen was in my path and I had to negotiate around him,” Pearl said. “And he clipped me and said something to me.

“I should be able to walk off the floor without someone trying to stand in my way.”

Oh, that Auburn-Alabama rivalry.

Meanwhile, in the actual basketball game, Collin Sexton put on another show. He scored 31 points, 21 of them in the second half, as Alabama went on a 28-3 run after trailing by 120 at halftime.

“They told me when I’m open, just shoot it and don’t worry about the misses,” Sexton said. “We’re having fun and when we’re having fun we make shots.”

Or is the other way around.

Anyway, the Quadrant 1 victory should eliminate any uncertainty about Alabama and the NCAA Tournament meaning the SEC is likely to get a record eight teams in.

“We are an NCAA Tournament team in my opinion,” said Alabama coach Avery Johnson. “There shouldn’t be any doubt about that.”

The Tide had lost five straight coming into the SEC Tournament but now advance to the semifinals Saturday with a record of 19-14. Auburn, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, is now 25-7.

“We just didn’t have it in the second half,” Pearl said. “When they made their run, it bothered us more than it should have.”