Unfazed Alabama momentarily quiets the noise with Win Over Auburn

The program has caught a lot of heat off the field in recent weeks, but it picked up another big conference win on Wednesday.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—Last week, it felt like the world watched just about everything Brandon Miller did.

On Wednesday night, in front of a friendly home crowd at Coleman Coliseum ahead of a matchup with rival Auburn State, the crowd watched, of all things, the pregame introductions. After last Saturday’s debacle — where, as has been a routine this year with Alabama signings, Miller was patted down by a staff member — those recommendations Wednesday night loomed large.

As Miller’s turn came, the public address announcer called his name, his face graced the jumbotron, and the Coliseum shook with a roar reserved only for arguably the nation’s greatest basketball player. He got up from the counter, walked over to the staff member and, as people watched, shook his shoulders with the man.

You’re okay here, just a simple hit. Keeping a promise made by coach Nate Oats, the team changed its pregame routine in light of the backlash that followed last week — a callous oversight given the circumstances.

Miller struggled to score at will and was again key in the Tide’s overtime win over the Tigers.

Vasha Hunt/AP

You know the conditions by now. Miller, a freshman forward projected as a top-three pick in the NBA draft, is a cooperating witness in a highly publicized police investigation into a shooting death that unfolded in Tuscaloosa’s entertainment district, The Strip, on Jan. 15.

Last Tuesday, during a court hearing, Tuscaloosa police revealed that both Miller and fellow Alabama freshman Jaden Bradley were at the scene when Jamea Harris was shot and killed while sitting in a vehicle. Former Tide basketball player Darius Miles was charged along with Michael Davis. While police say Miller drove to the crime scene with the possible murder weapon in his back seat, he has not been charged because there is no evidence that he knew the intentions of Miles and Davis.

The situation has shocked the college basketball world. Alabama, possibly the best team in the country, is poised to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and on that wild night in Tuscaloosa, the Tide won the SEC regular season championship after an epic 90-85 comeback win in overtime over the cross-state Tigers.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Oats says before bringing up the tragedy that unfolded this season. “It’s a heartbreaking situation that is never lost on us.”

On a cold shooting night, Miller scored 17—10 of those free throws—and the Tide rallied from a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes, at one point going on a 16–0 run to bury Bruce Pearl’s team and to terminate. unbeaten at home this year.

In his third game since the latest police revelations emerged, Miller shined when it counted. His layup in overtime gave the Tide a five-point lead and he grabbed an offensive rebound in the final seconds followed by two free throws to ice the game.

“Brandon finds other ways to impact the game,” Oats says. “He made huge free throws for us. He’s a winner and I’m proud of him.”

The Coleman crowd rocked and roared as the Tide (26–4 overall, 16–1 SEC) swept to what seemed like an improbable victory. Oats’ team trailed 66–49 with nine minutes, 32 seconds remaining before that wild run. The Tide closed regulation with a 26–9 blowout. At one point, Auburn (19–11, 9–8) went nearly six minutes without a score.

In overtime, the Tigers never led.

As the horn sounded, Miller grabbed a missed Auburn 3-pointer down the field and turned the ball into the air. During a fun on-field celebration, Alabama players posed for photos in SEC championship T-shirts and cut pieces of the nylon netting.

In it all was Miller.

Both Miller and his team struggled from the start. Auburn led 10–2 at the six minute mark, and Miller needed 11 minutes before scoring his first points – two free throws. Down by seven points at halftime, the Tide tied the game at 42 two minutes into the second half before an offensive collapse of epic proportions. In the next seven minutes, Oats’ team scored seven points and Auburn took a 17-point lead before Alabama’s hot tear. Amidst the run, a brawl broke out on the field, and two Bama players were later ejected for leaving the bench.

The final few minutes were steeped in drama and tension—for Alabama, a thrilling performance on the court after a forgettable eight days off the court here in Tuscaloosa. Two avoidable mistakes inflamed an already divisive situation.

Last Tuesday, as the court hearing unfolded with the new revelations, Oats described Miller’s situation as “in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” He later apologized. And then, on Saturday, before the win against Arkansas, the video of Miller getting hit further inflamed the already seething basketball world.

The Tide have one more regular season game, at Texas A&M on Saturday, before next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville. Miller has not spoken publicly since the latest revelations by police.

The silence is likely to end soon, as potentially both the SEC Tournament and, certainly, the NCAA Tournament will require him to speak. Any questions about the incident are likely to be answered by a statement from Miller. As a witness in an active case, he is not expected to address the matter.

And what now?

Alabama seems unconcerned, content to move forward in the face of scrutiny.

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