Mark Sears, Brandon Miller among the reasons Alabama basketball dominated Liberty 95-59

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama basketball made quick work of another early-season opponent Friday in dispatching Liberty 95-59 at Coleman Coliseum.

After notching a season-opening win over Longwood on Monday, the Crimson Tide (2-0) led by nine at the half and pulled away after intermission with its new-look lineup. Center Charles Bediako was the only returning regular in the starting lineup, and once again the influx of talented freshmen played a major role.

Here are three observations from the win by Alabama (2-0) against Liberty (1-1).

Defense impresses

The Crimson Tide's roster turnover afforded it more length and versatility on defense, and it's shown up well in early-season action. That length clearly bothered Liberty's best scorer, Darius McGhee, who was the smallest player on the floor and scored just two in the first half. McGhee, who averaged 25 points per game last year, shot 3-of-11 without an assist and three turnovers, owing largely to Alabama guard Nimari Burnett's defensive effort.

But while Alabama brought a physical presence on defense, it lacked awareness at times. Early in the first half, the Flames got open under the basket for a few easy lay-ups, and Alabama coach Nate Oats was animated about it.

"The guys that were guarding the slasher/screeners were losing their men and getting beat on some backdoors," Oats said. "We had that issue too much, but there were a couple back-to-back there where we called time out to get this thing straightened out."

That issue aside, it was a dominant defensive effort on the whole, as the Flames collected just six offensive rebounds and scored just four second-chance points.

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3-point shooting improved

After shooting a frosty 12% (6-for-50) on 3-pointers across an exhibition win plus the victory over Longwood, Alabama came alive from that range against the Flames. Freshman Brandon Miller and transfer Mark Sears led that effort with 7-of-10 3-point shooting between them. Alabama shot 10-of-22 from 3-point range for the game (45.5%), with Miller setting the tone with a 3-pointer to open the scoring. Sears scored a game-high 22 on 8-of-11 shooting overall, while Miller added 20.

Rebounding dominant again

Alabama outrebounded Liberty 45-23, led by eight each from Miller and Sears. With a significant size advantage, UA was especially strong on the defensive glass and held the Flames to one shot pretty much all night. Noah Clowney, who fouled out late, added six rebounds, and Bediako added five in just 17 minutes of action. Alabama outrebounded Longwood 67-38, giving the Crimson Tide a rebounding edge of 112-61 for the young season.

What's next

The Crimson Tide embarks upon its first road game of the season on Tuesday at South Alabama (9 p.m. CT, ESPNU). The Jaguars feature a 7-footer in center Kevin Samuel, a transfer from Florida Gulf Coast who recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds in USA's season opening win over Mobile.

Reach Chase Goodbread at cgoodbread@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread