Brandon Miller held scoreless in Alabama’s first-round win

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama star forward Brandon Miller, who has been dealing with a groin injury, was held scoreless for the first time this season as the Crimson Tide beat Texas A&M Corpus Christi 96-75 during the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.

Miller, who averaged a team-high 19.7 points per game, played only 19 minutes and missed all five of his field goal attempts. He averaged 33.2 minutes per game entering the tournament.

A projected lottery pick, Miller had five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers.

Alabama coach Nate Oats said Miller injured his groin during the Crimson Tide’s win in the SEC championship game on Sunday.

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“It was nice to be able to put up 96 without Brandon scoring a point,” Oats said. “… We were trying to play him limited minutes. We were able to keep him under 20. Hopefully, he can get a lot of rehab today and tomorrow and look a lot more like himself on Saturday.”

Miller, for his part, downplayed the severity of the injury. Asked if it was the reason he was on the bench for stretches of the game, he said, “If that’s what you want to call it … we can go with that.”

“I feel like I was just there to support my team,” he added.

Miller said the injury is “getting better by the day.”

Asked if he expected to play against Maryland on Saturday, he responded, “Of course.”

Texas A&M Corpus Christi coach Steve Lutz joked on Wednesday that the Islanders would need Miller to fall ill for them to stop him.

“I mean, he was scoreless, you know, I don’t know that you can give our defense a lot of the credit,” Lutz said Thursday. “Maybe he had an off night. I really don’t know. I know that I watched him on tape and he’s really, really good. Um, so for us to have collectively done the job that we did on him defensively is a feather our cap.

“But I wouldn’t expect that to happen again to be honest with you.”

Miller downplayed the severity of the threats he said he’s received because of his alleged connection to the capital murder case of former teammate Darius Miles and another man, who are charged in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.

During a court hearing last month, a police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles’ gun in the early morning hours of the shooting. Miller has not been accused of a crime and the university has described Miller as a cooperating witness, not a suspect.

Oats said Wednesday that an armed security guard had been assigned to protect Miller because of the threats.

Whether it’s social media or email, Miller said he’s received threats “through all platforms” and that he passes them along to the university to address.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said. “I send it to the right people and then they handle it.”

Asked how he keeps his focus, he said simply, “I lean on my teammates.”