Sears, Miller lead No. 20 Alabama past Liberty 95-59
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Mark Sears scored 22 points, freshman Brandon Miller added 20 and No. 20 Alabama beat Liberty 95-59 on Friday night.
Alabama (2-0) led by nine at the break and broke away by scoring 11 straight points during a 17-2 run early in the second half.
“That was a pretty dominating win,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We got stuff to work on still, but that’s a quality team that’s picked to win the (Atlantic Sun Conference) and there’s already been three (Atlantic Sun) teams go in and beat high-major teams already. They’re going to go win a lot of games.”
Liberty’s Darius McGhee, second in the nation in scoring last season at 24.6 points per game, was held to eight on 3-for-11 shooting, including 1 of 5 on 3-pointers.
Alabama mostly relied on Nimari Burnett and Bradley to guard McGhee.
“Nimari’s got length, he’s got a 6-foot-10 wingspan, high IQ guy, plays hard, thinks about the right stuff,” Oats said. “We thought Nimari’s length and size could bother McGhee, and I think it did. He did a good job there.”
This was the most-lopsided nonconference loss by Liberty (1-1) since it fell to Indiana 87-48 on Nov. 19, 2016.
“I’ve sat on that sideline for a few games as a Liberty representative and I just don’t remember us being as overwhelmed as I felt like we were today,” Flames coach Ritchie McKay said.
“I just felt like we rushed a little bit offensively and defensively, we’ve been built on a defensive identity. I’ll do a better job of coaching. They got 38 foul attempts. That’s part of their game plan, but I have to do a better job of teaching our guys how to keep them out of the paint without fouling,” he said.
Sears made 8 of his first 11 shots and had eight rebounds and four assists. Miller hit 4 of 5 on 3s and also had eight rebounds.
Rylan Griffen scored 16 points and fellow freshman Jaden Bradley had 10 for the Crimson Tide.
Shiloh Robinson had 11 points for Liberty and Brody Peebles added 10.
After shooting just 10.7% (3 of 28) from 3-point territory in the season debut against Longwood, the Crimson Tide did much better against Liberty, making 10 of 22 (45.5%). Alabama led the nation in 3-point attempts in the 2020-21 season and was in the top 10 last season, with no signs of cutting down its attempts in 2022-23.
Alabama’s 3-point shooting success stands to be a decent predictor of its overall success, and seeing a drastic improvement was important.
“It felt good to see shots go in because we all worked so hard over the summer and in the fall, to see those shots go in was very relieving for all of us,” Sears said.
Liberty: Returns home to play North Carolina Central on Monday night.
Alabama: Plays a rare in-state, nonconference road game at South Alabama on Tuesday.
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