BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama buried Texas A&M-Corpus Christi under an early 3-point onslaught, launching the NCAA Tournament’s top seed to a 96-75 first-round romp on Thursday even with star freshman Brandon Miller going scoreless.
The Crimson Tide (30-5) set aside their off-court distractions and buried 10 first-half 3s in a predictably easy win over the 16th-seeded Islanders (24-11) at Legacy Arena, less than an hour from campus.
Miller, the 6-foot-9 All-American who has been beset by questions about his presence at the scene of a fatal shooting, sat out the final 14 minutes and missed all five field goal attempts while dealing with a groin injury. His previous low was eight points against Houston on Dec. 10.
“We’re making shots at a pretty high level,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “It’s nice to put up 96 without Brandon scoring any of them. He’s been nursing a groin injury. We want to play him limited minutes and were able to keep him under 20.”
Of course, none of the starters played more than 21 minutes, resting up for the next round.
“It doesn’t really matter how much I score. I think our whole team are just winners,” Miller said. “The final score at the end of the game, that’s what we care about.”
Miller hasn’t been accused of any crime in the shooting, which led to capital murder charges against then-teammate Darius Miles and another man.
Alabama coasted after leading 54-34 by the half and advanced to play eighth-seeded Maryland on Saturday in the South Region.
Nick Pringle, a junior college transfer who came in averaging 3 points per game, scored 17 and had a season-high 13 rebounds. Mark Sears made three 3s in a 58-second span of the first half and scored 15 points. Jahvon Quinerly scored 13 and Nimari Burnett had 11.
Noah Clowney scored all 10 of his points in the first five-plus minutes, including three 3s.
Trevian Tennyson led the Islanders with 20 points. Isaach Mushula scored 16 and Owen Dease 14. The Islanders have never beaten a ranked team.
Coach Steve Lutz has lifted the Islanders to two straight NCAA Tournaments since taking over a team that had gone 5-19 the year before his arrival.
The Islanders were without Terrion Murdix (left knee injury), the Southland League defensive player of the year.
“They should be very, very proud of themselves,” Lutz said.
His team did muster an 8-0 flurry early in the second half to cut the deficit to 13 points. But the momentum didn’t last.
“They’re a great team. They answered back,” Tennyson said. “They have a chance to win the national title.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Advanced with its first tourney win in a play-in game against Southeast Missouri State. Was only outscored 42-41 in the second half.
Alabama: Made 8 of 11 3s early and 15 of 33 (45.5%) overall. Got to play in an arena full of crimson-and-white against an overmatched opponent.
“When we came out of the tunnel, I had chills,” Sears said. “Just seeing all the love we had. It was just an unbelievable experience.”