I’m going to be honest and up front here and go ahead and let you know that I emotionally checked out of this game soon after the second half started. There wasn’t a lot of good happening for Alabama all night and it was, all-in-all, a fairly expected loss in an extremely hostile court of obnoxious Ole Miss fans.
The game started pretty horribly as Ole Miss players took turns hitting every single shot they took, and the Rebels jumped up to a 12-4 lead, and then a 18-9 lead in the first 7 minutes. A well-timed time-out call from Coach Avery Johnson got Alabama settled back in, and they went on a roaring 18-0 run over the next 5 minutes of the game, spearheaded by some exceptional ball movement and three-point shooting that had the announcers salivating on live TV.
Then it all came crashing to an end. Coach Johnson started doing some weird substitutions (playing with no point guards, then suddenly putting all three point guards in the game at once) and it tangibly affected the team’s ability to get in position on defense. Ole Miss’s Deandre Burnett took advantage and rattled off 8 straight points to put the Rebel-Bears back in it, and his teammates took up the charge, hitting two more 3 pointers to make it a 14-0 run before Alabama finally managed to score again. The Tide worked the ball inside to slow down the game the last couple of minutes and cut the deficit to only 4 points, but Markel Crawford and Burnett then hit back-to-back three pointers off of an Alabama turnover to close out the half.
Alabama started the second half strong and cut away at the lead to get as close as 44-45, but began a slow, but sure, fading demise after that. Offensively, the perimeter shooting game totally dried up and Collin Sexton wasted a lot of possessions trying to drive right into the heart of the Ole Miss defense. Donta Hall was a man among boys around the rim, but the team just couldn’t get the ball to him enough.
And while the offensive woes were a major problem, even worse was the fact that the Ole Miss players were suddenly granted the ability to nail every single pull-up fade-away jump shot from anywhere on the court the entire half. Alabama’s defense wasn’t great or anything, but they weren’t THAT bad either. The Rebels just couldn’t seem to miss.
They stayed around 8 or more points ahead for most of the half, and that never really changed. The final score ended up being 78-66, and that was that.
Donta Hall led the team with 14 points and also had 7 rebounds. He was the lone piece of offense to make any contribution consistently, despite playing with a gimpy right hand still. Dazon Ingram was next with 10 points, and led the team with 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
No one else broke double digits in anything. Alex Reese hit a couple of 3-pointers off the bench, but had some misses as well. John Petty was 1/8 shooting, and Collin Sexton was 2/13. When you miss that many shots, you lose ball games.
Alabama is still a fringe NCAA team, but the schedule ahead is absolutely brutal. The entire season has been a brutal schedule, really. It is going to take a monumental effort from this team just to win enough to stay out of the NIT ranks.
I wish I had more positive and encouraging things to say, but I don’t. This was a tough loss and the chances going forward are grim. At this point, all we can do is hope.