BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With two No. 1 seeds off the board top-seeded Alabama is rolling to the Sweet 16.
Unlike Kansas and Purdue, the Crimson Tide was able to avoid the upset against No. 8 seed Maryland, defeating the Terrapins 73-50 and punching its ticket to Louisville.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s win.
It’s finally Miller Time
Miller’s introduction to March Madness has been anything but friendly. Alabama’s most consistent scorer this season, struggled to find the bottom of the net as he was held scoreless for more than 53 minutes in Birmingham. However, against Maryland, Miller finally got his offense going as a driving layup at 6:44 in the first half snapped an 0-for-8 mark from the floor. After seeing his first shot fall, it gave Miller a surge of confidence as he finished with nine points in the first half.
With Miller finally getting the proverbial monkey off his back, all that was left was for him to drain one from deep and he did just that. Within the first two minutes of the second half, Miller drained a 3-pointer and then two possessions later, he did it again. The two deep balls gave Alabama a double-digit lead, one it wouldn’t relinquish thanks to his 19 points.
Alabama sticks with starters
If there’s been a calling card for this year’s Alabama team, it’s depth. The team that’s known for having eight different scorers contribute to the offense, shortened the bench against Maryland. Typically a strength for Alabama wasn’t very effective against Maryland as it wracked up just three points from the bench in the first half. Nimari Burnett tallied all three points at the free-throw line with less than four minutes to go in the first half.
Even with Burnett’s three points from the line, the bench went a combined 0-for-4 from the field and was a plus-seven on the floor in the first 20 minutes. For comparison’s sake, the starting unit was a plus-68 during that stretch. Noah Gurley made the unit’s first basket from the floor at the 8:46 mark in the second half.
Reese’s foul trouble spurs first-half run
Coming into Saturday’s matchup all eyes were fixated on the battle between 6-foot-9 forward Julian Reese and 7-footer Charles Bediako. Reese, who is Maryland’s leading rebounder and shot blocker, was hindered by early foul trouble on Saturday. Reese picked up his third foul with 8:50 left in the first half and with him on the bench, Alabama went on a 14-3 run to close out the first half with five points. During that span, three of Alabama’s five baskets were layups with Maryland’s rim protector glued to the bench.
With Reese missing, Maryland really struggled to get its offense going as it missed 20 of its 22 shots to close out the half. Alabama dominated in the rebounding battle tallying 44 boards to Maryland’s 32. Bediako took full advantage of an undersized Maryland team tallying his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.