Alabama star freshman Brandon Miller was the talk of the college basketball world the last two days, but not because of his massive talent level. Details of a murder allegedly involving a former teammate included Miller, who has not been charged with any crimes, and comments from coach Nate Oats only added to the swirling controversy.
But Wednesday night at the Colonial Life Arena, Miller gave fans a glimpse of his potential greatness scoring 41 points in leading the second ranked Crimson Tide to a 78-76 overtime win over the Gamecocks. Miller’s output was the second highest in the history of the Colonial Life Arena. The record of 44 points was set by Sindarius Thornwell, ironically in a four-overtime win over Alabama in 2017.
The raucous crowd rode Miller from the opening tip, showering him with boos and catcalls every time he touched the ball. The crowd seemed to also inspire the Gamecocks who had not led at halftime of a home SEC game this season until Wednesday night. Meechie Johnson hit a half-court shot at the halftime buzzer to put USC up 35-31.
Miller and the Gamecocks’ own standout freshman forward GG Jackson pretty much played to a standoff in the first twenty minutes. Miller scored 15 points and Jackson 13. But Miller asserted himself to open the second half scoring the first ten points for the Crimson Tide against a lone three-pointer by Jackson to give Alabama a 41-38 lead.
The game went back and forth from there with each team having as much as a five point lead. Jacobi Wright gave USC a 68-66 lead with :14 left in regulation, but Miller drove to the basket and made a layup to tie the game with :04 to play. Jackson’s shot to win from just across the timeline was well off, and the game went to overtime.
In the extra session, the largest lead either way was four points by Alabama. It was a two-point Bama lead when Johnson scored on a layup to tie the game at 76 with :21 to play. The Crimson Tide got the ball into Miller’s hands again and let him do his work, and he again beat the Gamecock defense to the glass and made a layup with nine-tenths of a second left.
Johnson took the inbounds pass and heaved a shot about three-quarters length that hit the rim and backboard but bounced away.
Miller was so dominant in the Alabama offense he outscored his next highest scoring teammate by 31 points. He made four of his last five shots, all of them layups. For the night, Miller made six layups and one dunk. He also hit six three pointers.
The Crimson Tide scored 30 points off layups and outscored the Gamecocks in the paint 40-24.
After his strong first half, Jackson cooled off. He started 6-10 from the floor but made just two of his final 10 shots. He did not score after the 8:01 mark of the second half.
It was Jacobi Wright and Johnson who carried the Gamecocks down the stretch. Each scored ten points over the final 14:20 of the game. Each finished with 18 points. Johnson also had four assists.
The Gamecocks remain winless at home in the calendar year of 2023. They are 10-18 overall and 3-12 in the SEC. They will play Saturday at Tennessee. Alabama is 24-4 overall and 14-1 in the SEC. They will host Arkansas Saturday.