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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Mark Sears scored 24 points to go with five rebounds and six assists as No. 22 Alabama beat Mercer 98-67 on Friday night.

Sears shot 8-for-12 from the field and made seven of his eight free throw attempts.

“He’s gotten a lot better at making reads,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “He was six assists and only one turnover tonight. Mark, when he drives, he’s finishing at the rim, getting fouled or making the correct spray out (pass) about 95% of the time. He’s grown a lot in his decision-making and he’s always been pretty tough and physical going downhill.”

Nick Pringle and Jarin Stevenson scored 14 for the Crimson Tide and Aaron Estrada had 10.

Mercer (1-3) was led by Jalyn McCreary with 17 points and eight rebounds and Amanze Ngumezi had 11 points.

Alabama (4-0) trailed early in its last two home games against Indiana State and South Alabama, but had no such trouble with the Bears, jumping out to a 15-4 lead in the first four minutes. Alabama shot 79% from the field in the first half, its first time shooting better than 70% in a half since Nov. 29, 2019.

“You got to pick your poison,” Mercer coach Greg Gary said. “You have to gap it up to stop them from getting to the rim but you have to have great closeouts.”

BIG PICTURE

Alabama is about to get a significant increase in the quality of its competition, with a chance that six of its next seven games are against teams from Power 5 conferences. It goes into that series of games with a red-hot offense, having scored 98 or more points in the first four games of its regular season and shooting at least 42% from 3-point range.

“They’re going to guard us harder than we’ve been guarded and our defense is going to have to markedly improve,” Oats said. “I think it’s been a good first four games for us, particularly with a new squad and the chemistry has been good.”

UP NEXT

Mercer: Travels to Destin, Florida, for the Emerald Coast Classic and a Nov. 24 game against Tennessee State.

Alabama: Travels to Destin, Florida, for an Emerald Coast Classic game against Ohio State on Nov. 24, its first game away from home and its first game against a Power 5 opponent this season.

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