For whatever reason, the Tide figured out how to shoot three pointers. The offense absolutely exploded in this match, and this was despite leading scorer Retin Obasohan not managing a single point in the entire first half. As a team, Alabama made an outstanding 12 of 24 three point shots, but made up for that with a collective 46% team effort from the free throw line.
While Alabama circled the ball around the court, getting almost everyone involved in the scoring frenzy, Ole Miss funneled the offense to senior point guard Stephan Curr... I mean Stefan Moody. The SEC leader in 30+ point games this season single handedly made up 53% of the Rebels' entire offense. Moody hit 8 three point shots, most from well beyond the arc or while fighting Alabama defenders, and basically scored at will the entire night.
The Rebels quickly jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game, and it only took Obasohan about 4 minutes to pick up two fouls and get sent to the bench. Riley Norris channeled his inner focus that we only see once a month, and rattled off three beautiful three point shots, scoring 9 of the Tide's first 11 points. Meanwhile, Justin Coleman started to look like a legitimate starting caliber point guard, driving to the basket and dishing the ball effectively, while also hitting a few three point shots of his own. Arthur Edwards got in on the action, and made a couple of three pointers and two dunks of his own, one coming from a backcourt steal. Brandon Austin and Shannon Hale even joined in to knock down a three point shot each, and Alabama went into halftime with an explosive 40 points. Unfortunately, the defense did not hold up their end of the deal, and the Ole Miss Stefan Moody's scored 36 points of their own.
With the onset of the second half, Retin Obasohan struggled to get reacclimated with the offense that had chugged along so well without him, and the offense regressed to just watching Obasohan, rather than creating their own opportunities. The teams traded blows, and the Tide stayed right at 5 points ahead for the first 10 minutes of the second half, when Alabama's offense started to click again. With the efforts of Obasohan, Coleman, and Edwards, the Tide surged to a substantial 14-point lead with 7 minutes left, and never relinquished. Alabama's free throw shooting during this stretch of the game was abominable (and that's an understatement), causing quite a few of us fans to worry that the lead might quickly vanish, but they made just enough shots while double-teaming Moody to keep the lead above 3 possessions the rest of the way to a final score of 81-73.
Despite his goose-egg in the first half, Obasohan still led the team with 17 points. He added a steal, a couple of assists and three rebounds to his stats, but shot a dreadful 40% from the free throw line. Riley Norris was right behind with 16 points, and actually recorded the double-double by grabbing a team high 11 rebounds. Arthur Edwards had possibly his best game in a Crimson uniform, scoring 15 points (4 of which came from monster dunks), 4 rebounds, a steal, and 3 blocks!
Justin Coleman also may have had his best game, and a lot of if was not even reflected on the stat sheet. He scored 15 points (many coming from driving into the paint, rather than just pure volume of three point attempts), and added 5 assists and a steal. Donta Hall, Shannon Hale, and Brandon Austin all scored 5 points each coming off the bench, and Hall had an especially large impact in the defensive game, recording 5 blocks and 5 rebounds in limited playing time. Big men Jimmie Taylor and Michael Kessens actually were benched for most of the game in favor of all, and only recorded two blocks and three points between the two.
Alabama's offense, glaring free throw deficiencies aside, looked at times possibly more explosive than I've seen in the last 7 years, which could be scary to the SEC if they choose right now to get hot. The Tide will play Kentucky next, and a win against the Wildcats could very easily put Alabama back into contention for the NCAA tournament.