Alabama continued its winning ways in its last game despite star Brandon Miller failing to convert from 3-point range — and it moved the Crimson Tide to the top of the AP poll for the first time in 20 years.
Now with his team ranked No. 1 for the first time since the 2002-03 season, Miller will aim for a better showing on Wednesday when Alabama clashes with No. 10 Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.
Alabama (22-3, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) overcame Miller’s 0-for-7 performance from beyond the arc to record its fourth straight win and 13th in 14 outings with a 77-69 victory at Auburn on Saturday.
“I thought our guys showed some resilience to weather a bad shooting night from Brandon,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “We had some other guys step up.”
The other guys in question were Rylan Griffen and Mark Sears, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively. They combined to make 5 of 8 attempts from 3-point range while the remainder of the club sank just 1 of 13 tries.
“Rylan was huge. We don’t win this game without Rylan,” Oats said of Griffen, who has posted four double-digit scoring performances in his last five games.
Miller, who boasts team-best per-game averages in points (18.8) and rebounds (8.2), saw his streak of 15 straight games in which he made a 3-pointer come to a halt. He went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and 0-for-8 from the floor in a 71-65 victory at then-No. 1 Houston on Dec. 10.
While Alabama has ascended, Tennessee (19-6, 8-4) has taken a step back following a pair of one-point losses that featured eerily similar finishes.
The Volunteers dropped a 66-65 decision at Vanderbilt on Wednesday before falling 86-85 to Missouri on Saturday.
In the latter contest, Tennessee overcame a 17-point deficit in the second half before shooting itself in the foot. Santiago Vescovi’s missed free throw and Tobe Awaka’s lane violation with three seconds left came back to haunt the Volunteers when DeAndre Gholston made a buzzer-beating heave from well beyond the 3-point line.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, that script had an all-too-familiar feel. Vescovi missed a late free throw and the Commodores sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the Wednesday game.
“We all hurt for (Vescovi). He’s hurting,” Volunteers coach Rick Barnes said after the loss to the Tigers.
“I hurt for him because he knows he had a chance, two games in a row, to put a game on ice. But he’s won a lot of games for us. I hate it for him. I do, because where we are today and where we’ve been, he’s had a lot to do with it.”
Vescovi boasts a team-best average of 12.2 points per game. He collected 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in Tennessee’s 73-68 loss to Alabama last season.
Noah Gurley paced the Crimson Tide with 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in that game, while Jahvon Quinerly added 18 points.
Tennessee’s Tyreke Key, who did not play in that game, came off the bench on Saturday to score 21 of his 23 points in the second half. He highlighted his performance by sinking a season-high five 3-pointers.
–Field Level Media