Mark Sears scores 30 as Alabama overwhelms Charleston

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 23 Mar, 2024 at 06:38 AM

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Sears poured in 30 points, and the nation's top-scoring team was in high gear Friday as Alabama rolled to a convincing 109-96 victory over Charleston in West Region first-round play at Spokane, Wash.

Latrell Wrightsell Jr. made 5 of 6 3-point attempts while adding 17 points for fourth-seeded Alabama (22-11). Aaron Estrada added 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Crimson Tide, who entered the contest averaging 90.8 points per game and set a school mark for most points in an NCAA Tournament game.

Ben Burnham scored 19 points for the 13th-seeded Cougars (27-8), who had their 12-game winning streak halted. Frankie Policelli tallied 15 points for Charleston.

Kobe Rodgers added 14 points and three steals for the Cougars before exiting with a knee injury with 4:07 remaining. Reyne Smith added 13 points, James Scott had 11 and Bryce Butler had 10 for Charleston.

Alabama will face No. 12 Grand Canyon in Sunday's second round. Grand Canyon knocked out No. 5 Saint Mary's later Friday.

The Crimson Tide shot a blistering 60 percent from the field and knocked down 13 of 23 3-point attempts (56.5 percent) while reaching the 100-point mark for the 10th time this season.

Sears was 9 of 13 from the field -- including 3 of 6 from 3-point range -- and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line while notching his fourth 30-point game of the season.

"Seeing what happened to Auburn last game, I didn't want that to happen to us," Sears said, referring to Auburn's earlier loss to Yale. "I just really wanted to get stops, and I feel like our guys really came prepared and got stops and made a big run."

Alabama led by as many as 31 before Charleston narrowed the margin late in the game.

"We got up 31 and quit covering," Alabama coach Nate Oates said. "It's a little bit frustrating, but it's not the time of year to jump these guys right after we scored 109 points in an NCAA Tournament game. ... Trying to keep the energy positive but, yeah, we've had a tendency to play the scoreboard a little too often."

The Cougars made 41 percent of their shots and were 10 of 33 (30.3 percent) from behind the arc.

Charleston trailed by 17 at halftime before scoring six of the first eight in the second half to move within 53-40.

Sears responded with the last five points of a 7-0 run that gave Alabama's its first 20-point lead.

Wrightsell later drained a 3-pointer to push the lead to 75-51 with 13:27 remaining. The lead went over 30 when Estrada drilled a trey to make it 95-64 with 7:49 left.

"They were terrific tonight," Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said of Alabama. "Whatever they shot from 3, that's hard to do with nobody in the gym. I felt like every time it left their fingers, the ball was going in. The rim looked really big, and they hit us in the mouth."

Sears scored 20 first-half points on 6-of-8 shooting as Alabama led 51-34 at the break. The Crimson Tide shot 55.2 percent in the half while the Cougars checked in at 33.3 percent.

"He's an incredible player. He's an All-American for a reason," said Smith, one of the players who spent time guarding Sears. "He was a handful tonight and maybe we need to take a little more pride defensively as individuals. Unfortunately, we just couldn't get stops when we needed, fouled a little too much on drives, kind of being a little too handsy. But give him credit, he's one hell of a player."

Charleston led 19-13 after a basket by Butler with 12:40 remaining in the first half before Alabama answered with a 21-7 burst to lead by eight with 5:54 left.

The Crimson Tide later rattled off 12 straight points as the lead grew to 15 with 1:53 remaining until the break.

--Field Level Media