No. 20 Alabama flashed its rebounding and defensive prowess in a season-opening victory Monday. The Crimson Tide try for more of the same when they host host Liberty on Friday night.
Thanks to a 67-38 rebounding advantage, Alabama rolled to a 75-54 victory over Longwood, which was an NCAA Tournament team a season ago. Four Crimson Tide players had double-digit rebounds, led by the 13 from Brandon Miller, a five-star freshman and McDonald’s All-American.
Miller also had 14 points in his regular-season college debut to match Rylan Griffen for the team high. Also recording a double-double was graduate transfer Mark Sears, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Alabama coach Nate Oats lamented his team’s inability to make open looks from the field in the team’s exhibition victory over Southern Illinois, and the issue still appears to be a work in progress after the Crimson Tide shot 39.1 percent from the field against Longwood. They were just 3 of 28 (10.7 percent) from 3-point range.
The difference came from holding Longwood to 26.8 shooting from the field.
“We had a great defensive game to start the year out,” Oats said. “Our defense is much improved. I’ve been telling you we’re going to be a better defensive team but also told you we would be a better shooting team, and that didn’t show up tonight. But look, that’s a good team. They’ve got NCAA Tournament experience, and they won their league regular-season tournament last year.”
Other Alabama players with double-digit rebounds included Noah Clowney (11) and Charles Bediako (12), but the Crimson Tide also had 19 turnovers, compared with 10 for Longwood.
“I think the shooting numbers will take care of itself,” Oats said. “We must figure (out) the turnovers … but I’m really happy with the effort and the defense for Game 1.”
Liberty will enter Friday’s game off a dominating 104-38 season-opening victory over Regent University of the National Collegiate Christian Athletic Association. Not only did 13 Liberty players score at least one point, all 13 played at least 10 minutes.
Darius McGhee and Brody Peebles each scored 17 points to lead the Flames, who shot 53.7 percent from the field and went 12 of 33 from 3-point range (36.4 percent). All five Liberty starters played at least 14 minutes.
“I’m happy with the first-game jitters and the way we seemingly got through it,” said Liberty coach Ritchie McKay, who won his 200th game in his 10th season with the Flames. “I think our guys have been anxious to play someone other than themselves. We had a great student support tonight. I really felt like they gave our guys a lot of energy.”
McGhee was involved in his 105th victory at Liberty, the most from an individual player in school history. He also has made at least three 3-pointers in 17 consecutive games.
Liberty went 22-11 a season ago and was 12-4 to lead the ASUN Conference East Division but lost 53-50 in the conference tournament semifinals to Bellarmine.
–Field Level Media
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