The number one team in the land, the Alabama Crimson Tide, advanced to the round of 32 by defeating Texas A&M Corpus Christi 96-75 on Thursday. The Tide improved to 30-5 while A&M-CC fell to 24-11. The 30 wins by Bama is the most in school history. Alabama won easily without their leading scorer, All American Brandon Miller, scoring a single point.
The Tide continued with the starting lineup of Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Miller. Coach Nate Oats has used that lineup since the first game of the SEC Tournament, and it has helped stem the team;s slow starts that had plagued them toward the end of the regular season.
A slow start wasn’t a problem today. Bediako scored in the first 15 seconds and Clowney hit two quick three point shots as the Tide jumped out to a 9-0 lead after just three minutes of action. Clowney hit another from behind the arc, and Rylan Griffen entered the game and hit one of his own, as did Nimari Burnett. With 10 minutes left in the half Clowney picked up his third foul and went to the bench with 10 points.
Next it was Sears turn to heat up, knocking down a trio of triples in just over a minute. After the third make the Tide led 37-23 with 7:20 left. Dom Welch and Noah Gurley joined in the three parade. Sears made a basket at the end of the half, and Bama led 54-34 at the break.
In the first half Bama shot 17-32 for 53% Including 10-17 for 59% from three point range while making 10-14 free throws. The Tide had 24 rebounds, three blocks, one steal, 12 assists, and only four turnovers. Sears had 13 points and Clowney notched 10 in he half.
TAM-CC shot 11-35 for 31%. 3-12 from deep, but made 9-9 free throws. The Islanders grabbed 16 rebounds, two steals, two blocks, three assists, and only three turnovers.
Alabama started their original starters to begin the second half. None of them played many minutes. When Clowney almost immediately drew his 4th foul Gurley replaced him and nailed a three point shot shortly thereafter. Quinelry hit from long range with 16:32 left for 60-44 lead. Around that point the rest of the day belonged to Nick Pringle.
Between passes from his teammates for dunks and following teammates misses for put backs, the junior big man was dominant through the rest of the game. With 7:03 left the lead was 78-58 and none of the starters had been in the game for a long stretch of time.
With a big lead late, Oats put the walk-ons in the game and Delaney Heard drilled a three pointer with one minute left. Pringle scored the last points for the Tide on a follow up jam. A&M-CC hit a three pointer at the buzzer that affected a lot of people that wagered on the game.
In the second half the Tide hit 16-38 shots for 42%, 5-16 from deep for 31%, and 5-9 from the stripe. Overall the team was 33-70 for 47%, including 15-33 from three for 46%, and 15-23 for 65% on free throws. Bama finished with 48 rebounds, 21 assists, eight blocks, four steals, and eight turnovers. The Bama bench scored 49 of the teams points.
Pringle was the star of the day with 19 points on 8-10 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds. The only black mark on Pringle was 3-7 shooting from the free throw line. Sears broke out of his funk with 15 points, hitting 3-4 from behind the arc. Quinelry added 13 points, Burnett had 11, Clowney 10, Bediako had nine points, eight rebounds, and five blocked shots. Gurley added eight points and four rebounds, while Jaden Bradley had six assists but zero points.
A&M-CC shot 15-40 for 38% in the second with 5-9 from three, and 6-8 at the line. Overall the Islanders were 26-75 for 35%, 8-21 for 38% from deep, and made 15-17 free throws.
The Tide just overwhelmed the smaller, less talented team. Sears played 21 minutes, the most by any starter in the game. Clowney only was on the floor for nine minutes, Quinelry for 18, Miller for 19, and Bediako 16. Six reserves played between 13-20 minutes each.
Miller failed to score for the first time this season ( and probably in his life), but had five rebounds and four assists. Coach Nate Oats said this week that Miller played the SEC Tournament with a groin injury, and was seen on the bench with a heating pad on his upper leg area during the game. Hopefully the short stint today and a day of rest will get the superstar back to his normal dominating self.
Next up is the Maryland Terrapins who defeated West Virginia in the earlier game. The tip-off time hasn’t been set yet, but the game will be on Saturday. With West Virginia, Virginia, and Arizona all losing the Tide’s path to Houston for the final four looks more and more likely.