The 20th ranked Crimson Tide basketball team welcomed the four time defending A-Sun Champs Liberty on Friday night and couldn't have treated them more rudely. The Tide ran away from the Flames by a score of 95-59. Ohio U transfer Mark Sears led four players in double figures with 22 points. Bama improved to 2-0 while Liberty dropped to 1-1 on the season.
The Tide was once again short handed with Jahvon Quinerly and Dom Welch still not available and Darius Miles on the bench wearing a boot on an injured foot/ankle. Coach Nate Oats sent out a starting five of Sears, Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Charles Bediako, and Nimari Burnett.
After a dismal showing behind the three point line on Monday night (3-28) the Tide began the game with a make from deep by the superstar freshman, Miller. With 16:26 left in the half Liberty held the lead at 8-5 before Oats sent Jaden Bradley, Noah Gurley, and Rylan Griffen in the game. Griffen and Gurley quickly made three point baskets of their own and the Tide was off and running, never trailing again. Miller hit two more from deep before collecting his second foul of the half and leaving the game with 4:30 remaining in the period. Sears took over and Bama had a lead of 40-31 at the break.
Bama shot 12-27 for 44% in the first, including 6-13 for 46% from deep and made 10-12 from the charity stripe. Liberty was 11-28 for 39%, including 5-14 for 36% from three and made all four of their free tries. Miller led the Tide with 11 points in the first half.
Bediako picked up three fouls in the first half so Gurley replaced him to start the second period, along with Sears, Miller, Clowney, and Burnett. Bama put the game away early in the half, going on a 17-2 run to put things out of reach. Sears made his third triple of the game with 13:06 left for a 16 point lead at 58-42. Miller knocked down his fourth shot from long distance with 6:28 on the clock and the scored had reached 75-49. Sears, Griffen, Bradley, and Burnett helped to push the score out further until Oats finally emptied the bench with just over two minutes left in the game.
In the second half the Tide blistered the nets to the tune of 15-25 for 60 , including 4-9 from three and made 21-26 free throws. For the game Bama finished 27-52 for 52%, 10-22 (!!) from three points range for 46%, and 31-38 from the free throw line for 82%. The Tide again ruled the boards by a margin of 45-23. Bama had 12 offensive rebounds, had 14 assists, eight steals, six blocks, and a still too many 15 turnovers. Liberty was held to 25% in the second on 7-27 shooting including just 3-15 from three and made 11-16 free throws. In the game the Flames shot 33% on 18-55 shooting with 8-29 for 27% from deep and 15-20 from the line. LU had 23 rebounds, 13 assists, 14 turnovers, six steals and only one blocked shot.
This Liberty team has a track record over many seasons of being an NCAA Tournament team. The Tide was expected to win fairly easily, but to absolutely run the Flames out of the gym was a pleasant surprise.
Individually Sears finished with 22 points on 8-11 shooting, 3-5 from deep, added eight rebounds, and five assists. Miller was an efficient 5-8 from the field, with 4-5 from three and 6-6 from the free throw line, adding eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Griffen added 16 points in his 22 minutes of play. Bradley was the fourth player in double digits with 10 points and had three assists and two steals. Burnett made 7-8 free throws and just missed double figures with nine points. Gurley had seven points, five rebounds, two assists, and a block. Griffen won the hard hat award and Sears was named player of the game.
The great, the good, and the meh. No real good, bad, and ugly tonight. The defense and effort were both outstanding. The shooting and rebounding were very good and the meh was a few too many turnovers.
Wow, this team has the look of an exciting team that can have a great year. The size, length, strength, and athleticism of this group can carry them far. This is the type of team that Oats has been clamoring for with interchangeable parts, guys that play defense first and can shoot the ball. The depth was on display tonight when eight guys played 15 or more minutes, while three other players expected to be key contributors where on the bench in street clothes. The point guard position is in the very capable hands of Sears and Bradley, who both have strong bodies that can finish at the rim through contact. Miller is definitely living up to the hype early on. With Bediako, Clowney, Gurley, and Nick Pringle, Oats has four big bodies to play down low. Barring some devastating injuries look for the Tide to make a lot of noise this season.
The Tide goes on the road to Mobile to take on South Alabama on Tuesday in a 9 p.m. CT tipoff of a game that can be seen on ESPNU. The team returns home for a Friday night 8 p.m. tip with Jacksonville State, to be shown on the SEC Network. The first big test will be on Thanksgiving night when The Tide plays Michigan State on Portland, OR at 9:30 CT on ESPN.
Jump on the hype train now and Roll Tide