Sears shines, No. 7 Alabama throttles Kentucky

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — ‘Cats contained. 

On Saturday, No. 7 Alabama defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 78-52 behind a blistering second-half effort from Mark Sears and Brandon Miller.  

It was the Crimson Tide who jumped out of the gate early behind the wings of Charles Bediako and Noah Clowney, who scored the game’s first 11 points.  

Oscar Tshiebwe, the nation’s reigning Naismith Player of the Year, had no answer for the Alabama frontcourt duo, shooting 1-for-7 from the field, grabbing a mere six boards and tacking on four fouls.  

“We got rattled,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “[Tshiebwe] got rattled. We had a bunch of guys who got rattled in the game. … we weren’t able to move and get to where we needed to go.” 

While the Crimson Tide gave the Wildcats all they could handle with their length and defensive acumen, it was the smallest guy on the court — Mark Sears — who stole the show.  

A transfer from Ohio, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native finished with 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting, posting six boards, six steals, four rebounds, two blocks and two assists en route to a complete performance on both ends.  

“It’s a great group of guys,” Sears said after the game. “It shows on the court. It’s easy to play with these guys.” 

To nobody’s surprise, Brandon Miller was up to his usual tricks, scoring 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting while grabbing six rebounds.  

A projected lottery pick hailing from Antioch, Tennessee, Miller’s 12 second-half points led the way for a Crimson Tide team that outscored Calipari’s Wildcats 43-28 over the game’s final 20 minutes.  

“We got to look at the shots we’re missing,” Calipari said postgame. “Are they makeable shots? Or do we have the wrong guy shooting? Some other guys should be shooting. Should we space it out more? We have Oscar — how do we utilize him?” 

As a team, Alabama held Kentucky to 28.2 % shooting from the floor and 23.1 % from downtown — Kentucky’s lowest mark of the season from beyond the arc.  

Unlike most Alabama-Kentucky matchups in Tuscaloosa, the usual travelling “sea of blue” was practically non-existent. By game’s end, any signs of a Wildcat invasion were thwarted by a rowdy, packed and energetic crimson wave inside Coleman Coliseum.  

“I think they came out with a lot of high energy from the jump,” Miller said. “I think with us playing hard, [it] rattled them.” 

Oats was impressed by the crowd, too — particularly with the Crimson Chaos student section.  

“Students are going to be students,” Oats said. “I love them. They’re great. That’s why college environments are better than NBA environments, because [it’s] student sections that gets after it — but it’s still college students being college students.” 

With their thrashing of Kentucky, the Crimson Tide moved to a No. 5 ranking on the analytics site KenPom. Now riding a four-game winning streak, Oats’ squad will regroup and hit the road for a potential top-10 matchup with Eric Musselman’s Arkansas Razorbacks. 

Tipoff for No. 7 Alabama and No. 13 Arkansas is set for Wednesday, Jan. 11th, at 6 p.m.  on ESPN2.  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]