Sears is open … again: Alabama guard’s 7 3-pointers lead to MVP award, trip to men’s Final Four

Mark Sears, who scored 23 points with an impressive 7-of-14 effort from beyond the arc, ignites energy from the Alabama bench. (Photo by Bennett Silvyn/Cronkite News)

LOS ANGELES – Saturday night was a powerful one for Alabama guard Mark Sears.

“Just feeling a lot of emotions,” he said. “Being from Alabama and to do it with this group of guys, it’s amazing.”

That group is know as the Crimson Tide, who defeated Clemson 89-82 to advance the the school’s first men’s Final Four..

The 6-foot-1 senior had a standout offensive night against the Tigers at Arena in the West Region championship game.

The Ohio University transfer led all scorers with 23 points. He shot 50% from the arc and 44.4% from the field, made two assists, had one steal and secured three rebounds. Sears even made seven of the team’s 16 3-pointers. His performance did not go unnoticed as he was awarded West Region MVP.

“Even though it’s intense, we play the game because we have fun with it,” Sears said about the joy he felt during competition. “To be in those moments you dream about as a kid, and just to have fun with it because you remember, even though it’s a business to go out there, we still gotta have to have fun with it.”

Playing a game of catch-up after trailing by 13 points with six minutes left in the first half, Alabama finally found its shooting rhythm after hitting three consecutive 3-pointers: two from from 6-11 forward Jarin Stevenson and one by 6-3 guard Aaron Estrad. But with 1:50 left in the first half, it was Sears’ 3-point shot that got the Crimson Tide rolling.

After Alabama turned up the heat offensively, Clemson struggled to get back into defensive transition, giving up easy points.

“Fans were treated to some high-level play, especially in the second half,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “The shot-making was elite. Credit to Alabama. I give Nate and his kids a lot of credit for the win. It’s a huge play for their program and they deserved it. Their second half performance was outstanding and we had a hard time guarding them.”

Indeed. The Tide went on a 20-0 run near the end of the first half to take the lead.

“It’s mainly just practice,” Stevenson said when asked about what gave him the confidence to keep shooting. “I knew just from practice that I could knock those shots down. I’m just focusing on the next shot. Even though I airballed one or two threes, I am just focusing on the next shot.”

Sears has had a memorable career as a member of the Alabama men’s basketball team. Entering Saturday’s game, he was the only Division 1 player that had reached 750 points, 145 rebounds, 140 assists and 85 3-pointers this season, and is one of only six players in the last 31 years to reach the milestone.

So far during the postseason, Sears is averaging 24.7 points and is shooting 53.3 percent from 3-point range and 84.2 percent from the line. He set a program record for most points scored (750) by an Alabama player in a single season, passing Reggie King, who had 747 in 1979. Sears has also broken King’s school record (23) of scoring 20-or-more points in 24 games this season.

As Alabama inches closer and closer to winning a national championship, Sears and the team face a greater challenge with their next opponent: UConn. The Huskies have been winning games by large margins in the regular season and postseason.

Sears will need a strong performance as UConn guard Tristen Newton awaits.

Dalanie Todd(she/her/hers)
Sports Reporter, Los Angeles

Dalanie Todd expects to graduate in May 2024 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Todd has reported on numerous sports at different levels including high school, college and the pros in the Phoenix area. She interned as a reporter for Sports360AZ and was the beat reporter for Williams Field High School varsity football team for the AIA.

Bennett Silvyn BEH-nit SIL-vin
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Bennett Silvyn expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business, marketing and sports management. Silvyn has interned in marketing and social media for the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission, as a reporter for Arizona Foothills Magazine, in sponsorships for the Arizona Rattlers and in social and digital media for FC Tucson. Silvyn has also reported for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network and The State Press.