Brandon Miller is often the center of national attention, and rightly so. He’s the SEC’s top scorer as a freshman, he’s making big plays in virtually every game, and he’s expected to be an NBA lottery pick.
However, don’t sleep on Mark Sears. Though Alabama Basketball probably wouldn’t mind if other teams did. Muscle Shoals’ Ohio transfer is a player who is a problem for opposing teams most nights.
That was the case again on Saturday when Alabama met Missouri. Sears ended up plus-minus plus-35, best on the team, as the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 85-64.
It wasn’t even Sears’ best offensive performance. He shot 4-on-12 from the field and 1-on-7 from beyond the arc, but still often found opportunities to change the game for Alabama (17-2, 7-0 SEC).
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Sears had 17 points and grabbed eight boards, seven of which were on the defensive end, and had three steals and three assists.
In the meantime he had only one turnover.
Sears had such a good night that Alabama coach Nate Oats started saying he won the hardhat on worker points before recalling that Noah Clowney, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds, had just ousted Sears for the honors , awarded to a Crimson Tide player each game.
“I thought (Sears) would be tough,” Oats said.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Sears was how he played hard, even when no shots were fired. He didn’t gain momentum beyond the arc, despite being second on the team in three-point shooting with 38.5%.
Sears missed its first four shots, all from deep. Still, he wasn’t deterred. He just found other ways to try to score, although he couldn’t connect from beyond the arc. Shortly after missing his fourth 3-point attempt, Sears drove to the basket and scored his first basket on a layup.
He was also 8-for-9 from the free throw line.
“He didn’t shoot very well tonight, but he still played hard,” said Oats. “He was plus-35 when he was in the game. So that we win at 21 and he at plus-35, he not only makes an impression with threes.”
Oats had spoken to Sears about staying aggressive because he felt Sears was starting to play passive after two fouls in the Vanderbilt game. The game against the Commodores was Sears’ worst offensive performance by just three points as he went off the field 1–5.
But that seems to be an isolated case. In the previous five SEC games, Sears averaged 18 points.
“I’m not the type of coach who dumps guys with two fouls,” Oats said. “Analytically it doesn’t make sense. You’re going to play the number of minutes you play and pick up fouls when you pick up fouls. I’m not going to put you with two. We pulled him out for a bit and put him right back in ( against Vanderbilt). I thought he was passive against Vanderbilt. I thought he stayed super aggressive tonight. He went into defense. Attacked the perimeter.
Sears can contribute in many ways, and that makes him a key figure outside of Miller. Add Clowney to the mix and that’s three pillars for Alabama as the Crimson Tide continues to march towards the No. 1 ranking in the NCAA tournament.
If national attention hasn’t increased around Sears, it will. It should. If he’s a mystery to anyone now, it won’t be for much longer.