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Mar 20, 2024 8:21 am

Plenty of points expected as Alabama faces Charleston

Nate Oats

Alabama boasts the highest-scoring attack in the nation but is far from a shut-down squad on the defensive end.

The combination surely appeals to NCAA Tournament first-round opponent Charleston, which has won 12 consecutive games.

The scoreboard figures to get a lot of work on Friday when the fourth-seeded Crimson Tide (21-11) face the No. 13 seed Cougars (27-7) in a West Region first-round game at Spokane, Wash.

Both teams love to hoist 3-point shots. Charleston ranks third nationally with an average of 30.6 attempts per game, with the Crimson Tide fourth at 30.3.

The Cougars aren’t in the same locale as Alabama’s 90.8 points-per-game average but are tied for 34th at 80.5.

“Charleston’s a really good offensive team,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “If we don’t come out and guard, Charleston is gonna put some points up on us. And I don’t like putting that much pressure on our offense every night out that we got to go score 100 points or whatever.”

Alabama has lost four of its last six games and has allowed more than 100 points in three of them. Kentucky lit up the Crimson Tide for 117 points, and Florida put up 105 and 102 in a span of 11 days, the latter coming in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Overall, Alabama gives up an average of 81.1 points per game. Without improvement, the Crimson Tide will have to outscore opponents to advance in March Madness.

“These guys are going to have to decide how bad they want to win in the NCAA Tournament, how much we want to continue to play defense for 40 minutes.” Oats said. “If we play defense for 40 minutes, we can play with anybody in the country. If we decide to take 24 minutes off from the defensive end, it’s going to be hard to beat anybody in the NCAA Tournament.”

Mark Sears paces Alabama with team-best figures of 21.1 points per game and 75 3-pointers.

Another player that concerns Charleston is Aaron Estrada, who averages 13.5 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

Estrada previously played at Hofstra, a team in the same league as the Cougars. Estrada was named Coastal Athletic Association Player of the Year in each of his two seasons in the league before transferring to Alabama.

“He’s a terrific player,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said of Estrada. “He’s a clutch player that steps up in big moments. He’s talented. We had some battles against him, and I have a ton of respect for him. Unfortunately, we have to see him again, I thought we were done with him after last year.”

The Cougars will have gone 10 days without a game when they take the floor on Friday.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any rust,” Charleston forward Ante Brzovic said. “We played three games in three days last week in the CAA Tournament, so we’ve got some guys that are banged up. I think we’re going to be sharp when we get to Spokane.”

Brzovic ranks second on the Cougars in scoring (12.3) and leads in rebounding (6.2). Reyne Smith (12.8) leads Charleston in scoring.

The Cougars are looking for their second win in the NCAA Tournament. They defeated Maryland in the first round in 1997.

Both teams were ousted last season by eventual NCAA runner-up San Diego State. Charleston lost to the Aztecs in the first round, and the Crimson Tide were dispatched in the Sweet 16.

The winner on Friday will play either No. 5 Saint Mary’s or No. 12 Grand Canyon on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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