In a game that was reminiscent of the recent tilt in Birmingham against Oregon, it was a tale of two halves on Thursday as the Tide shot its way to a 40-32 halftime lead over the Ole Miss Rebels before going ice cold in the second to fall 74-66 in the team's SEC opener.
Ole Miss, playing the first game in their sparkling new $96.5 million facility, jumped out to a quick 10 point lead over the Tide, but Arthur Edwards and Retin Obasohan started firing threes to quickly flip the script and stake the Tide to a 10 point lead of their own. The Tide defense was stout early, as it held the Rebels to 9-27 shooting while aggressively doubling the talented point guard, Stefan Moody, and forcing turnovers.
Ole Miss came out fired up after the break and quickly cut the lead down, buoyed by several 'Bama turnovers. The Rebels tied the game at 44 with 13:42 left in the game, meaning the Tide scored four points in the first 6:18 of the half. Shannon Hale hit a three pointer with 11:21 left for a 52-48 'Bama lead, but it was all down hill from there. Mississippi took a 53-52 lead with about 12 minutes left that they never relinquished.
Obasohan did all he could to keep the Tide in the game, with help from Michael Kessens, and the Tide had the deficit at two points with a little over two minutes left. Unfortunately the early hot shooting failed to replicate down the stretch and the Rebels hit enough free throws to pull away for the eight point win. With just a few seconds left the sell out crowd began chanting "just like football" in unison.
The Tide did a good job controlling Moody, who is leading the league in scoring, holding him to 3-9 shooting, with two assists and six turnovers, though the SEC's all-time leading free throw shooter did hit 13-16 from the charity stripe to finish with 21 points. 'Bama had no answer for inside player Sebastian Saiz, who had the game of his life with 21 points and 16 rebounds,with seven on the offensive end.Tomasz Gielo added 12 points and four assists, and Rasheed Brooks added 10 points to give the Rebels four players in double figures.
Obasohan tied his career high with 23 points, adding six rebounds, four assists and three steals in 39 minutes of action. Edwards continued his steady play scoring 17 points while hitting five of six from behind the arc. Kessens played more minutes than normal and added 10 points while leading the team with seven rebounds.
Jimmie Taylor played only 13 minutes due to foul trouble and contributed only two points and two rebounds. Shannon Hale still seemed out of sync in his 15 minutes that produced only four points two rebounds. These two players have to be on the floor and be productive for the Tide to have success. Taylor had come on somewhat offensively in the last two games, but can't score or rebound from the bench. Hale just seems to be in a fog, and he arguably has the best tools on the team if he can get it together.
Alabama made 22-49 shots (45%) for the game with 9-25(36%) from three point range and 13-18(72%) from the free throw line. The Tide blocked seven shots, four by jumping jack freshman Donta Hall in only eight minutes of action. Ten steals by the Tide is good, 10 assists and 19 turnovers is not.
Ole Miss shot only 23-55 (41%) from the field and 4-15 (26%) from the arc, but won the game at the free throw line (24-33, 77%) and on the boards as they won the rebounding battle 37-30. The Rebels had 14 assists and 13 turnovers.
The Tide fell to 9-4, 0-1 in the SEC with the loss, while the Rebels improved to 11-3, 1-1 in conference play.
Things don't get any easier for the Coach Johnson's squad as they host Kentucky on Saturday at 5pm CST in Coleman. The game will be shown on the SEC Network. With the students gone and something big going on Monday night combined with the way UK travels, the home court will have a definite blue hue on Saturday afternoon.
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