By: Peyton Davis

TUSCALOOSA  Ala.– The Alabama Crimson Tide looked to pick up a second straight win to open the year on Friday night at Coleman Coliseum hosting the 1-0 Liberty Flames.

The Tide began the game still in a struggle to find consistent offensive rhythm in the half court, but began to find success midway through the half using their defensive tenacity to translate to good looks in the fast break. 

It took the team less than ten in-game minutes to match their three point total from Monday night, led by Freshman Forward Brandon Miller—who began the game 3/3 from deep. Liberty was able to match the Tide’s strong early shooting, going 5/14 from three in the first half which was fortunate given the amount of open looks the Flames had. 

It was a nine point lead for the Tide after the first 20 minutes of play with a score of 40-31 at the half. 

The second half start for the Crimson Tide was a lot stronger, most notably in the half court as Junior Ohio transfer, Mark Sears took command of the offense in the first five minutes, scoring a quick seven points to open the half. He made a point to have that mentality to began the half.

“Being aggressive and also being unselfish,” he said, “once I draw two when I get in the paint, kicking it out to a wide open teammate was my mentality.”

The team was a lot more aggressive coming out of the locker room, stressing Liberty’s interior defense much more frequently and getting to the free throw line at a higher rate.

The team defense from the Tide was what sparked the 2nd half offensive explosion, as they were much more proficient and comfortable increasing the pace of the game throughout the final 20 minutes. 

In the end, fueled by a 59 point second half offensive explosion, the Tide start the year with back to back wins with a 95-59 rout over the Liberty Flames. 

Coach Oats was very pleased with the overall effort of his team, and especially impressed with the team’s defense and getting out in transition in the second half.

“A lot of that attacking the paint happened early in the clock with Sears getting the ball downhill early,” he said, “so if you can get stops and run off your stops I think it’s a lot easier to get paint touches in transition because once their (Liberty’s) half court defense gets set, they’re tough.”

Oats has been very pleased with the teams effort, but also emphasized consistency—something the 2021 Crimson Tide team struggled with.

“We just keep preaching defense, effort, blue collar play—the shots will drop,” he said, “plenty of stuff too clean up, but we haven’t had an issue with effort in the first two games—that’s what we want all year. If we lose at some point this year because we couldn’t make a shot but our effort was there—we can live with that. We’re not gonna live with losing because we got out-efforted.”

The Crimson Tide will have their first road test of the year, as they travel to South Alabama to face the 1-1 Jaguars next Tuesday.