TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Grant Nelson scored 24 points and fellow transfer Aaron Estrada added 16 in impressive Alabama debuts, leading the 24th-ranked Crimson Tide to a 105-73 victory over Morehead State on Monday night in the opener for both teams.
The defending Southeastern Conference champion Crimson Tide rolled to a 24-point lead midway through the first half with an overhauled roster. It was the first time Alabama topped 100 points in an opener since scoring 107 in 2001-02 against Mississippi Valley State.
“I thought it was a great start to the season,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We really jumped on them out of the gate. I was really pleased with where our head was at to start the game.”
Mark Sears, the top returning scorer, had 13 points and five assists. Freshman Jarin Stevenson scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
Nelson, a North Dakota State transfer, had seven rebounds and made all eight free throw attempts in his introduction to Alabama fans.
“It’s crazy. I know these guys know what it’s like playing at a mid-major. It’s nothing like this,” said Nelson, flanked by Estrada and Sears, a transfer last year. “The fan base is crazy.”
Riley Minix, a transfer from NAIA Southeastern University, scored 19 to lead Morehead State. Jordan Lathon scored 14 points and Drew Thelwell added 13 for the defending Ohio Valley Conference champions.
“We knew that we were going to be in for a fight tonight and they did an unbelievable job with so many new players,” Eagles coach Preston Stradlin said. “And still able to stick to their identity of how they want to play.”
The Tide are replacing first-round draft picks Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney, along with other key players from a team that won a program-record 31 games and claimed the No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed.
Miller watched from the stands with Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne and visited the locker room afterward.
He got to see Sears and his new backcourt mate get off to good starts after point guards Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Bradley transferred.
“Aaron and Mark kind of got us going early, which is huge,” Oats said. “The backcourt’s going to definitely be a strong suit of ours this year with those two.”
Morehead St: Played without reigning and preseason OVC player of the year Mark Freeman, who could miss the season after October wrist surgery. It was a big blow to the preseason league favorites, coming off their first outright OVC regular season title since 1983-84.
Alabama: One of the nation’s top transfer hauls got off to a strong start. The Tide made their first seven shots to take charge from the outset. Alabama made its first 20 free throws and finished 31 of 38 (81.6%).
Estrada, who arrived from Hofstra, hit a 3-pointer just seven seconds into his first Alabama game and Nelson followed with a quick dunk. The two transfers combined for 23 of Alabama’s first 37 points with a pair of 3-pointers apiece.
Morehead State hosts Shawnee State on Wednesday night.
Alabama hosts Indiana State on Friday night.