The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team improved to 31-5 on the season and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with a 73-51 victory over the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday night in Legacy Arena in Birmingham Alabama.
The top seeded Tide started slowly but poured it on the 8th seeded Terps in the second half. The South Regional final will be played in Louisville, Kentucky next weekend. Bama improved to 31-5 while Maryland fell to 21-13. This will be the Tide’s ninth trip to the Sweet Sixteen as the look to become the first Tide team to advance past the Elite Eight.
Coach Nate Oats kept with his postseason starting lineup of Mark Sears, Jahvon Quinerly, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller. Miller has been nursing a groin injury, but was able to go and played a team-high 35 minutes.
Maryland came out of the game fast and had a 9-2 with 17:29 left in the half. Miller, who was held scoreless in Thursday’s win, made two free throws shortly after, followed by a three-pointer by Quinerly to cut the lead to 9-7 at 16:41. At the under 12 timeout, the game was still low scoring with Maryland leading 12-10. A drive and hoop by Sears finally gave the Tide their first lead at 15-14 with 7:30 left.
When Bediako scored on a put back at the 6:00 mark the Tide held a 19-17 that they never relinquished. Miller scored on a slick move in the lane for a 21-17 lead, as the team was 8-20 from the field and 1-4 from behind the arc.
Bama let that nine-point lead be cut to five at the half and lead 28-23 at the break. One cause for concern was that right before the half ended Clowney rolled his ankle and hobbled off in pain.
In the first half Alabama shot 10-26 for 38% including just 1-7 from three point range for 14%, and made 7-9 free throws for 78%. The Tide had 18 rebounds, four steals, two blocks, two assists, and seven turnovers. Miller led the way with nine points while Quinerly added seven.
Maryland shot even worse at 31% on 8-26 from the field with 1-5 from behind the arc and made 6-9 free throws for 67%. The Terms totaled 16 rebounds, four blocks, two steals, two assists, and committed six turnovers.
The Tide used the same starters for the second half, as Clowney mercifully made a quick recovery and was back on the floor. Bama finally got out to a 10-point lead at 40-30 with 15:25 left in the game.
Quinerly was blowing by defenders for baskets, feeding his teammates for easy looks, and generally just being the floor general that we all know he can be.
Miller finally found the range from three, hitting two in a short period of time. The highlight was Miller blocking a Maryland shot at the rim then sprinting down the court and being rewarded with the dish before splashing another from behind the arc.
Sears and Miller both continued to get to the line and helped push Bama’s lead out. At one point, Quinerly had a run where he looked unstoppable, and the game was put out of reach.
With around two minutes left the walk-ons entered the action and the celebration was on. Delany Heard made his requisite basket, only a mid-range jumper rather than a three pointer this time. Quinerly’s little brother, Jaden even got on the scorebook by making 1-2 free throws.
In the second half, the Tide shot 13-32 for 41%, 5-14 from three for 36%, and 14-19 from the stripe for 74%.
Overall the team shot poorly, 23-58 for 40% from the field including 6-21 from three for 29% and 21-28 for 75% from the free throw line. Bama finished with 44 rebounds, 15 offensive, four blocks, nine steals, seven assists, and 11 turnovers.
Quinerly led the way with 22 points on 9-14 shooting, 4-6 from three point range. Miller notched 19 points on 5-17 shooting with 2-6 from deep and added seven rebounds and a block. Bediako continued his stellar postseason with another double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds to go along with two blocks, two steals, and an assist. Clowney had five points and nine rebounds and Sears had six points, five rebounds, and three assists. Quinerly was the MVP and Bediako the Hard Hat winner.
Maryland shot 11-28 for 39% in the second including 0-3 from deep and 6-12 from the stripe. Overall the Terps finished 19-54 for 35%, 1-8 from three, and 12-21 for 57% on free throws. Maryland had 32 rebonds, five blocks, seven steals, six assists, and 13 turnovers. Julian Reese led the way with 14 points.
Alabama didn't play their A-game on offense, but the defense was on point. The three point shot was not falling for the majority of the game: Miller with two makes and Quinerly with four, were the only Tide players to score from behind the arc. Oats played the five starters all between 27-35 minutes each. Nimari Burnett with 11 minutes and Noah Gurley with 10 were the only two substitutes to reach double digits in minutes played.
On Thursday the bench outscored the starters, but on Saturday the reserves only tallied 11 points.
As they say, defense travels, and the Tide took theirs with them even if it was only 60 miles up the road to Birmingham. On a weekend that two number one seeds had already been eliminated Bama did what they had to do in disposing of the opponents put in front of them.
Next up is a battle with 5th-seeded San Diego State in Louisville on Friday at a time to be determined. Hopefully Miller and his groin injury will improve over the next week and Clowney won't have any repercussion’s from his hurt ankle.
BamaBrave will have a workup on San Diego State next week but they look to be a defensive-minded team that likes to slow things down while the Tide continues to want to play at a break neck pace. A definite contrast In styles. Let’s stay behind this team as they try to reach heights never reached by Alabama Basketball!