Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama signs Ohio transfer point guard Mark Sears

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Former Ohio point guard Mark Sears, who averaged nearly 20 points a game last season, has transferred to Alabama.

Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats announced the signing of Sears on Tuesday. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder was a two-time All-Mid-American Conference performer who was a finalist for the Lou Henson Award given to the nation’s top player at a mid-major program.

Sears averaged 19.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season. A native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, he shot 40.8% from 3-point range and 88.5% from the free throw line.

“Our entire staff felt like Mark was one of the best overall guards available in the transfer portal, so we really went after him hard,” Oats said. “He is a high character kid with great basketball feel who is a perfect fit for the way we want to play.

“He shoots the ball really well, he’s a great decision-maker and is terrific in transition.”

Alabama guards Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis are exploring turning pro. Freshman JD Davison is also projected as a potential first-round pick.

Former Texas Tech guard Nimari Burnett missed last season after a right knee injury.

No. 19 Alabama tops depleted No. 14 Tennessee 73-68 with late run

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- Jahvon Quinerly scored 18 points and Noah Gurley added a season-high 15 to help No. 19 Alabama beat 14th-ranked Tennessee 73-68 on Wednesday night in the SEC opener for both teams.

Jaden Shackelford, Alabama’s leading scorer, struggled for most of the night before he made a 3-pointer and a layup in the final two minutes. The 3-pointer tied the game and the layup gave the Crimson Tide (10-3) the lead.

“I thought in the last six minutes we pulled away in rebounding,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “They’re a hard-playing group. I thought our guys showed a lot of resilience on both sides of the ball late in the game.”

Oliver Nkamhoua made a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to give Tennessee a 68-67 advantage. Keon Ellis answered 10 seconds later with his own 3 and Alabama made three free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal the victory.

The Volunteers (9-3) were missing Kennedy Chandler and John Fulkerson, who tested positive for COVID-19. Chandler is Tennessee’s leading scorer. The freshman point guard is averaging 14 points and a team-leading 5.3 assists per game.

“We said, `Hey, this is what we have and we’re going to go play,”‘ Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “We believe in these guys, we recruited them. We said, `This is an opportunity for some of you guys to get more minutes.”‘

Even without their two stars, Tennessee held the advantage for most of the first half, briefly pushing the lead to 10 before Alabama’s 10-0 run to end the half tied the game. It was highlighted by a 3-pointer from Shackelford, who finished with 12 points.

The Volunteers led for all but the first minute and final minute of the second half as they made 17 of 20 from the foul line.

Nkamhoua led Tennessee with 15 points and nine rebounds.

GURLEY’S GAIN

Alabama’s pursuit of Gurley as a graduate transfer from Furman was in no small part due to his ability to score. He averaged 15.4 points per game in his final season as a Purple Paladin, scoring more than 20 in each of his final four games at Furman.

In his first 12 games at Alabama, he failed to score more than nine points, scoring five or fewer in five of those games. But he found his rhythm on Wednesday night.

“Hard work is not going to go unrewarded,” Oats said. “His effort was great, he took the right shots, controlled the ball when he needed to. I told him when you’re about the right stuff, you play hard, you lose yourself in the game and you step up to the free-throw line at the end of the game, it usually goes well for you.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee had three double-digit scorers (Nkamhoua, Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler) and two starters with nine rebounds (Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic). If Tennessee has to live without Chandler and Fulkerson beyond Wednesday’s game, it will have more tests like this one – it has games against No. 16 LSU and No. 18 Kentucky, both on the road, on Jan. 8 and Jan. 15.

Alabama’s next real test could come against No. 11 Auburn on Jan. 11.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: Hosts Ole Miss on Wednesday, which will be the Rebels’ first SEC game after Florida was unable to play due to COVID-19.

Alabama: Scheduled for a game at Florida on Wednesday, but the Gators’ game against Ole Miss was postponed due to the Gators’ COVID-19 issues.

Memphis flashes potential, runs past No. 6 Alabama 92-78

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — DeAndre Williams had 20 points and six assists, Jalen Duren added 14 points and Memphis finally played to its potential, beating No. 6 Alabama 92-78 on Tuesday night to snap a four-game skid.

Landers Nolley added 13 points for Memphis (6-4), which came into the season with a highly touted recruiting class and topped out with the No. 9 ranking in the AP Top 25. But the Tigers got pounded by Iowa State and lost close games to Georgia, Ole Miss and Murray State to fall out of the poll.

“I’m definitely enjoying every moment of this,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “This team is together now.”

Keon Ellis led the Crimson Tide (8-2) with 19 points. Jahvon Quinerly finished with 12 points and Jaden Shackelford added 10.

“We didn’t come ready to play,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “That’s on the coaching staff. Give a ton of credit to Memphis. We tried to tell our guys that we were going to get Memphis’ best shot.”

Memphis had a players-only meeting after the loss to Murray State.

“We knew we had to come together,” Williams said. “We really let everything out.”

Memphis took control with a 12-0 run capped by Tyler Harris’ 3-pointer that made it 61-42 with 12:53 remaining.

Alabama finished with 20 turnovers and couldn’t generate consistent offense after halftime. Memphis led 37-32 after a back-and-forth first half.

“We just tried to revert back to our winning ways,” Nolley said.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: The Crimson Tide were on a roll, having won four straight, including victories over ranked foes Gonzaga and Houston. Oats refused to blame the emotional 83-82 win over the Cougars for his team’s poor performance.

“We had multiple guys not play their best basketball game,” Oats said.

Memphis: The losing streak led to questions about the team’s chemistry, desire and discipline. None of that looked like a problem against Alabama.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Thanks to those big victories over Gonzaga and Houston, Alabama’s resume is strong enough that it shouldn’t drop too far in the poll.

Memphis still has a long way to go before it’s considered for a spot in the AP Top 25.

ALL IS NOT LOST

Alabama would begin Southeastern Conference play with a 10-2 record if it can beat its next two opponents, Jacksonville State and Colorado State.

That would “have been a decent record with the schedule we had,” Oats said. “But after our first nine games, you would like to have gotten this one.”

THEY SAID IT

“I’d rather not lose, so I think it’s better if you can take your lessons off wins. We got what we deserved tonight, I know that. We didn’t come ready to play. We didn’t play as hard as them. They played a lot harder than us,” Oats said.

He added: “Hopefully, it can recalibrate some guys. I wish we were mature enough that we didn’t need it. If we can’t get recalibrated after this one, we’ve got more issues than I thought.”

UP NEXT

Alabama: Hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday.

Memphis: Faces No. 18 Tennessee on Saturday in Nashville.

Kentucky favored to win SEC; Pippen preseason player of year

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Kentucky is the favorite to win the Southeastern Conference title, while defending champion Alabama is picked to finish second in voting among a panel of national and league media.

Voters picked Vanderbilt sophomore guard Scotty Pippen Jr. as preseason SEC player of the year in results released by the league on Tuesday.

Pippen headlined the first-team All-SEC picks that also included Kentucky guard Sahvir Wheeler, a Georgia transfer. Alabama guards Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly also made the first team, along with Colin Castleton and Mississippi State’s Iverson Molinar.

Ties were not broken.

The predicted order of finish: Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Georgia.

Maryland women race past Mount St. Mary’s 98-45 in NCAAs

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SAN ANTONIO – As a first dance at the Big Dance, things couldn’t have gone much better for No. 7 Maryland on Monday.

Ashley Owusu scored 20 points with eight rebounds and seven assists, Chloe Bibby had a double-double and the Terrapins raced to a 98-45 victory over Mount St. Mary’s in the opening round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Owusu scored six points during an 18-0 run that was part of a 25-4 blitz in the second quarter that decided the outcome. The Terrapins then went on to their largest margin of victory in the NCAA Tournament, surpassing an 89-54 win in 1989.

“Today was a great day, when you look at no one had to play heavy minutes,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “You need to be able to build that experience and that depth off the bench. I love the fact that every player was able to get in and play significant minutes. That just helps us advance and continue to have fresh legs.”

Diamond Miller added 19 points for second-seeded Maryland (25-2), which will take a 14-game winning streak into a second-round game with seventh-seeded Alabama in the Hemisfair Region on Wednesday. Bibby had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Nine players scored and had at least two baskets out of the 10 players who played. Every player got at least 10 minutes of action and no one played more than 26 minutes.

“You saw it on display, just the unselfishness. Making easy plays for one another. That’s when we’re playing out best basketball,” Frese said after her team had 21 assists on 34 baskets, which led to 52 points in the paint. “We made a lot of great plays today.”

The Terrapins shot 52.3% for the game, going 11 of 15 in the second quarter when they turned an 28-18 lead into a 53-22 blowout.

No player reached double figures for Mount St. Mary’s (17-7), which was in its third NCAA Tournament after back-to-back appearances in 1994 and ’95. Michaela Harrison, Aryna Taylor and Bridget Birkhead each scored eight for the Northeast Conference champions.

Mount St. Mary’s went 8 of 36 from 3-point range, 7 of 25 inside the arc, shooting 24.6% overall while being outrebounded by 18, outscored at the foul line by 18 and having 20 turnovers, twice as many as the Terrapins.

“I feel that they’re just a really better version than us,” Rebecca Lee said after scoring seven points. “They push the ball, and they shoot very well, and they’re very athletic, and I appreciate being able to play a team like that, when you get here. Everyone’s good it’s not just you, that’s good. So being able to play them and to be able to fight with them in the first quarter was amazing.”

BIG PICTURE

Mount St. Mary’s: Leading scorer Kendall Bresee struggled, going 0 for 10 and scoring five points. Meanwhile, Lee, the league tourney MVP, was saddled with early foul trouble.

Maryland: The Terrapins are now 9-0 against the Mount, which is located 70 miles away. … The Terps will have someone that can keep up with them in their next outing against Alabama. The Crimson Tide topped North Carolina 80-71 as point guard Jordan Lewis scored 32 points with 11 rebounds and eight assists. … Maryland is now 16-0 in the first round under Frese.

ANGEL HAS LANDED

Angel Reese, a 6-foot-3 freshman, was considered the No. 2 prospect in the country and she opened her career with games of 20, 15 and 16 points but in the third minute of the next game suffered a broken foot.

She came back in mid-February and produced her first double-double in the Big Ten Conference Tournament but her long absence – 14 missed games – makes her the forgotten freshman in a season of young stars.

Maryland put up some big numbers without her but Reese could be the X-factor for the Terrapins as her 11 points suggests.

Lewis, Alabama women win in return to NCAA tourney, top UNC

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SAN ANTONIO – Jordan Lewis had a career-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to help seventh-seeded Alabama beat No. 10 seed North Carolina 80-71 on Monday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

“The world saw today why Jordan Lewis is the best point guard in the SEC,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “She shares and cares and finds ways to impact us in so many different categories.”

It was a triumphant return to the NCAAs for the Crimson Tide (17-9), who were playing their first game in the tournament since 1999. The Crimson Tide made eight straight trips to the NCAAs from 1992-99 that included a run to the Final Four in 1994.

“When I came to Alabama I told coach we’d get back on the big stage,” Lewis said. “When you get a moment like this, you can’t miss an opportunity. … Don’t miss a chance to be great. Today we couldn’t miss the opportunity.”

Alabama built a 29-19 lead midway through the second quarter behind Lewis before the Tar Heels (13-11) cut it to 31-29 with 3:09 left before the half. The Crimson Tide responded scoring 10 of the next 12 points to take a 41-31 lead at the break. Lewis had five points during the closing burst and finished the first half with 18.

“Jordan Lewis was a woman amongst children at times,” North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart said. “They really affected us getting into the paint with the dribble.”

North Carolina trailed by 10 going into the fourth quarter before cutting it to 65-60 on a 3-pointer by Stephanie Watts with 6:46 left. Ariyah Copeland had a three-point play on the other end to start a 11-2 run and put the game away.

Watts led the Tar Heels with a season-high 29 points, hitting seven 3-pointers.

“It’s March, nothing’s easy. I give credit to Alabama for being able to convert on our lack of on-ball presence,” Watt said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to win this ballgame. Obviously, we came up short, but my mentality was I’m just going to leave it all out there. This is my last game in a Carolina uniform.”

Lewis finished short of the school record of 33 points in NCAA tournament play set by Yolanda Watkins against Duke in 1995 in a quadruple-overtime game.

The senior guard also moved into fourth on the school’s all-time assists list with 509, passing Shelly Pyles (1984-88).

REBOUND EDGE

Alabama came into the game knowing it had to hold its own on the boards against North Carolina, which was 10th nationally in rebounds per game. The Crimson Tide did more than just hold its own with a 46-33 advantage in rebounds.

“We come from a league where rebounding is critical,” Curry said. “Kids have been playing against long, athletic and big all year long. I thought our kids pursued the ball.”

BRIGHT FUTURE

Banghart has a lot to look forward to with the freshmen class accounting for nearly 44% of the points and 50% of the assists this season while playing half the minutes.

TOURNAMENT RESUME

Curry has now taken three different teams to the NCAAs after leading Purdue (2000-06) and Texas Tech (2011, 13) into the tournament

UP NEXT

Alabama faces Maryland on Wednesday in the second round.