Alabama Routs Mercer
Ahead of Alabama's final home football game, the men's basketball team got an emphatic victory over the Mercer Bears, winning 98-67. Mark Sears led the Crimson Tide with 24 points, followed by Nick Pringle and Jarin Stevenson, both with 14 points, and Aaron Estrada, who scored 10. Throughout the first half, Alabama dominated the game from every angle and spot on the court.
"I thought it was a good start," head coach Nate Oats said. "I didn't think we did a great job playing like we needed to for the whole 20 minutes of the second half. Sometimes it's hard when you're up by 30 at one point. We didn't close the game great, but we got to do a better job with some of that."
There were a fair amount of fans in Coleman Coliseum, but they were more reactive than proactive, maybe as a result of the opponent Alabama played tonight. But because of what the Crimson Tide did on the court, the crowd was engaged for a significant portion of the game. A number of former Alabama basketball players were also honored during this game; several were recognized at halftime. Players spanning the years of 1980–2000.
Alabama got off to a fast start, appearing to be able to get to the rim at will. Like a blade cutting through vines, Sears and Estrada were able to cut right through the Mercer defense with ease. At home, the three-point shooting hasn't stopped going in yet. From deep, the Crimson Tide was 6 for 8.
"Sears, Grant, and Aaron have been playing pretty well for us," Oats said. "Sears came out ready to go. Aaron got in foul trouble, and Grant didn't play particularly well tonight. It's nice to have some other guys pick it up, and Sears is pretty good."
Throughout these opening few games, Pringle has made significant progress. He was catching teammates' lobs, getting rebounds, and taking off in all directions. Players for Mercer had an average weight of 213 pounds. Their strongest player, who weighs 245 pounds, proved ineffective against Pringle.
"Pringle, this was his best game for us; he won the hard hat," Oats said. "He realized he needed to be better for us on defense. If we're going to be good at defense, we need some rim protection, block some shots, and make those blue-collar plays that we talked about. I think he's taken it upon himself to be that guy for us.
The Alabama offense flowed differently in the second half. There were fewer shots falling. The Crimson Tide shot 46% from the field in the second half after shooting 79% in the first.
After the half, Alabama only made two three-pointers. The Crimson Tide managed to reach the free line going 20–29, despite the fact that their three-pointers were not falling as frequently. They kept driving down the lane and used their physicality to get offensive rebounds to get to the foul line.
"I'd say we play very aggressively," Sears said. "We don't come into a game to determine what one thing we are going to do. If they give us the paint, then we attack the paint hard, and they took away the threes today, so that's what we had to do."
This game was Oats' way of finding out where his bench was and how it looked. There is an abundance of depth to this team in terms of size, length, athleticism, and shooting. The Crimson Chaos were impressed by several young guys' scoring and defensive tenacity.
Stevenson was the fourth-leading scorer on the night, and he came to play. The freshman out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, played with a lot of energy. He seemed to get the hype for every basket he scored. Stevenson had a pretty good shooting night from three, going 2 for 3.
Oats was impressed with true freshman Sam Walters. Walters finished with only seven points and four rebounds. The 6-foot-9 forward has seen extensive action in the first few games of the season. He was more active on the boards tonight, moving the ball down the floor and playing hard on both ends.
"I do think we need Sam to be able to rebound a little better," Oats said. "He came in and put on a little weight since he got here. He put on 20 pounds, but he's trying to prove that he's tough and physical, and he's played a lot more physically that way, but he's got to be able to do it without fouling."
Alabama's streak of scoring 100+ points ended, so the offense struggled in a sense.
The matchup against Mercer was part of the Emerald Coast Classic. Next Friday, November 24th, the Crimson Tide will travel to Destin, Florida, to face Ohio State and the winner or loser of the Oregon vs. Santa Clara matchup that Saturday.
MBB vs Mercer
Gallery Credit: SEC Media Portal