Alabama has been one of the nation’s best teams but has been walking a tightrope on the court since it was revealed in a Tuscaloosa courtroom that Brandon Miller, the team’s star freshman and likely NBA lottery pick, was at the scene of a killing involving former teammate Darius Miles and another man. Fellow freshman Jaden Bradley was also said to be at the scene, but police testified that Miller transported the gun — which belonged to Miles — used in the fatal shooting.
In the two weeks since, Miller has continued to play, with the university saying he is a cooperating witness, not a suspect in the case. Before Saturday, the Tide eked out wins over South Carolina (by two in overtime), Arkansas (by three) and Auburn (by five in overtime).
Alabama overcame deficits to win all three of those games and again fell behind early on Saturday. Texas A&M led by as many as 15 in the first half and then maintained a lead for much of the second half, but Alabama mounted another comeback.
A layup from Miller tied the score at 47-47 with 8:28 to play. The Tide even took a 54-51 lead on a Jahvon Quinerly 3-pointer at the 4:46 mark of the second half, but that would end up being Alabama’s only lead.
With Wade Taylor IV (28 points) and Tyrece Bradford (21 points) leading the way, Texas A&M retook the lead in the final minutes and never gave it back in an eventual six-point victory. The Aggies (23-8, 15-3 SEC) have won eight of their last nine and are a perfect 9-0 at home in SEC play.
Miller, the SEC’s leading scorer, led the way once again for Alabama but struggled from the field. Miller had 19 points, but was just 7-of-23 in shot attempts and 2-of-12 from long distance before fouling out with 1:59 remaining.
And like he did when Alabama traveled to South Carolina on Feb. 22 — the team’s first game that followed the courtroom revelations — Miller was greeted with boos from the Texas A&M crowd every time he touched the ball. The A&M fans also chanted “lock him up” and “guilty” as Miller attempted free throws.
Miller wasn’t the only Alabama player who struggled from the field. As a whole, the Tide shot just 33.8% and connected on just 7-of-36 attempts from beyond the arc.
Losing on the road to an ascending team like Texas A&M on its own isn’t necessarily cause for concern for Alabama, which will almost certainly be one of the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 seeds. But the slow starts in recent outings coupled with an underwhelming performance on Saturday and the lingering cloud of the Miller situation aren’t the most encouraging signs entering postseason play for a team with national championship aspirations.