TideIllustrated – Mark Sears Gets Back on Track From the Deep in the NCAA Tournament

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Birmingham, Ala. — Just before Nimari Burnett left the stage at the end of his postgame interview on Thursday, he wanted to share one final message.

“Mark (Sears) lives in the gym. He lives in the gym,” Burnett said.

Burnett’s comment drew a wry smile from Muscle Shoals, an Alabama native who was seated to his right. While it was an acknowledgment of Sears’ ethic, it was also a proverbial tip of the hat to the fellow guard who finally saw some shots fall at just the right time.

The last five games haven’t been kind to the Ohio transfer as he’s gone 7-for-35 from the deep since his March debut. That cold spell included a 3-for-22 mark during the SEC Championship Tournament. Despite a poor weekend in Nashville, Sears went back to during the team’s off week.

“In past games, I struggled to shoot the ball, and during breaks, I got back in the gym and started from ground zero,” Sears said. “I just trusted my work, just kept shooting with confidence.

“We won the SEC tournament on Sunday and the next Monday, I went to the gym at 10 a.m., hit 300 jump shots, and then got treated at 12, and I came back at 7:30 and got another 300 shot.”

The extra paid off against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as Sears finished with 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and a 3-for-3 mark from three. Junior was a contributor on the team, smashing 15 3-pointers en route to a 96–75 victory over the Islanders.

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While eight Alabama players made a basket from deep in the team’s first-round matchup, Alabama head coach Nate Oates made it a point to highlight Sears’ performance.

“I think it’s really big,” Oates said. “He’s been our second leading scorer all year. Even when he’s been struggling, we’ve continued to play him heavy minutes because I think he adds a lot to the team, even if he’s not making shots. He Tough. He’s had games where he’s been one of the worst, toughest, perimeter defenders out there. He adds to the mix.

“We’re going to put him out there because we know he can score. Other teams know he’s capable of scoring at a high level. Teams can’t afford to slack off on him. He’s going to give space on the floor.” So to get him going and making a lot of shots, definitely helps because he can be on the floor. I was really happy to see those guys.”

Sears made all of his 3-pointers in three-consecutive possessions that he did not relinquish, giving Alabama a 14-point lead.

The junior will need to return to be a consistent offensive threat as Alabama faces the No. 9-seed Maryland Terrapins, who sport a No. 32 defense, according to KenPom.

Oates said, “Hopefully his confidence is going and we’ll see the same in the second round.” “… all of our players hit all their shots the way they shot it all and the fall, they didn’t miss any open threes. I was happy to see that.”