No. 20 Alabama looks to move to 2-0 against Liberty Friday night

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

On Monday, Alabama men’s basketball defeated Longwood University 75-54 behind the wings of an impressive defensive performance in its season opener. Now the Crimson Tide will take on the dangerous Liberty University Flames on Friday night. 

Freshman Brandon Miller recorded a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds alongside Ohio University transfer Mark Sears, who posted a double-double of his own with 12 points and 10 rebounds.  

Fellow freshman Rylan Griffen also helped lead the way with 14 points, followed by 11 from Jaden Bradley and nine from Noah Clowney. 

While it wasn’t the most eye-catching offensive performance — turning the ball over 19 times and hitting just three out of 28 shots from 3-point land — the Crimson Tide (1-0) defense shined, holding the Lancers to an offensive rating of 69.5 and ranking third in the country through one game in terms of defensive effective field goal percentage at 30.3%. 

Now, as Nate Oats’ squad resets focus, they’ll be tasked with halting another mid-major challenger — facing the Atlantic Sun’s Liberty University Flames. 

After a disappointing 22-11 (12-4) tournament-less campaign in 2021-22, the Flames (1-0) return a roster loaded with depth, talent and experience. 

While Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay loses key departures in Keegan McDowell and Micaiah Abii, the Flames return two-time ASUN Player of the Year Darius McGhee, senior forward Shiloh Robinson, senior forward Kyle Rode, sophomore guard Brody Peebles — a Hartselle, Alabama native — and bring in a stacked freshman class that includes diaper dandy Colin Porter. 

If Monday was any indication, Liberty appears primed for another season of stout offensive production — thrashing Regent University to nab their first victory of the season, 104-38. 

“I knew this was going to be a hard game when we took it,” Oats said. “We took it anyways. It’s going to be a hard game. I do think our length is going to definitely help us.” 

It was a smaller lineup for the Flames, trotting out McGhee (5-foot-9), Porter (5-foot-9), Joseph Venzant (6-foot-3), Robinson (6-foot-7) and Rode (6-foot-7). 

A slow-paced offense — 357th in adjusted tempo in 2020-21, 273rd in 2021-22 — Liberty will look to create space at the rack for McGhee and Porter, two ball-dominant guards that play for easy drive and kicks to spot-up shooters with their speed and ability to finish at the rim. 

“McGhee kind of makes them go and we’re fully aware of that,” Oats said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a good game plan for McGhee.” 

Last season, the Flames finished 16th nationally in effective field goal percentage offensively at 55.5% and 10th in 3-point percentage at 38.1% — now, with a revamped roster catered to McKay’s balanced attack, the Flames will likely give Alabama everything they can handle in Tuscaloosa and more.  

The good news for the Crimson Tide is they have every bit of defensive length and offensive firepower to overcome any potential dogfight. 

With a mismatch in size, the Crimson Tide will likely attempt to exploit matchups given to seven-footer Charles Bediako and physically imposing forwards Clowney, Miller and Nick Pringle. The frontcourt is no exception, either — as Griffen, Bradley, Nimari Burnett and Sears possess significant size advantages over the Flames’ backcourt depth. 

According to KenPom, Alabama is currently projected to win 80-68 — an 85% chance at victory. 

If the Crimson Tide can muster any sort of offensive production from three-point range after Monday’s dominating performance in the paint — watch out, Liberty. Watch out, America.  

Tipoff from Coleman Coliseum is set for Friday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. CT on SEC Network+. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]