BASKETBALL

Alabama basketball atop SEC standings with Missouri win as Nate Oats shakes Mizzou Arena demons

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

The fourth time was the charm for Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats at Mizzou Arena.

Oats hadn't yet found a way to beat Missouri on the road over his past three seasons. That changed Saturday.

No. 4 Alabama didn't have its best day offensively but still defeated the Tigers 85-64. Missouri was without leading scorer Kobe Brown, a Huntsville native.

With the win, the Crimson Tide remains the only undefeated team in SEC play after Texas A&M lost Saturday to Kentucky.

Here are observations and takeaways from the game between No. 4 Alabama (17-2, 7-0 SEC) and Missouri (14-5, 3-4).

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Mark Sears' determination makes a difference

Mark Sears missed his first few baskets, but he didn't let that deter him. He stayed patient and kept pushing.

That determination paid off. By halftime, he tied the game-high scoring output with nine points and had made three field goals.

His 3-point shooting wasn't working early as he went 0-for-4 before the break. But Sears found other ways to score.

Sears' efforts helped Alabama grab a 38-28 lead at halftime.

Sears finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Noah Clowney shines, picks up second double-double

Clowney hadn't been as sharp the past few SEC games from a scoring standpoint. Against Vanderbilt and LSU, he shot 3-for-13 and had 11 points.

That didn't continue against Missouri. Clowney surpassed his previous two-game scoring total just a few minutes into the second half.

It didn't take long for Clowney to earn a double-double, either. Before two minutes had passed after the break, Clowney had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

By the end of the game, Clowney had 17 points and 14 rebounds.

Burnett's back

Alabama already had a fairly deep roster. Then it went and brought Nimari Burnett back to the lineup.

One of the best, if not the best, perimeter defenders on the roster, Burnett returned Saturday after missing more than a month with a wrist injury. He had surgery on his left wrist after the win over Houston in December.

He started the first nine games of the season and was averaging 18.8 minutes, 7.9 points and 2.3 rebounds. He's a former McDonald's All-American who transferred to Alabama after the 2020-21 season from Texas Tech, but a knee injury forced him to miss all of last season.

Burnett saw five minutes of action and did not score. He grabbed two rebounds, though.

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News/USA TODAY Network. Reach him via email: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.