After a topsy turvy start to the season, Alabama opened SEC play with a 82-64 victory over an Ole Miss squad that entered the game with the number one scoring defense in the nation. The game was in the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum, which really does resemble an airplane hanger when there are only 2,000 fans allowed. The Tide used a big night from Jahvon Quinerly off the bench to improve to 6-3 on the season. The Rebels/Blackbears/Landsharks fell to 5-2, 0-1. The win was the Tide’s 800th in SEC play and joined Kentucky as the only two league teams to reach that mark.
Coach Nate Oats welcomed back John Petty and James Rojas to the team after they both were held out of the last game on a “coach’s decision.” Apparently there was a practice altercation, verbal we are told. The social media rumors ran wild on the little dust up, but Oats said it was a one game deal and it was all behind them.
The starting lineup was different with Jaden Shackelford, Herbert Jones, Jordan Bruner, Keon Ellis, and Joshua Primo drawing the starting slots. However, things changed quickly when Jones was called for two fouls in the first 30 seconds of the game. Quinerly replaced him and shined all night. Jones sat for 15 minutes, was put back in, and drew his third foul within two minutes.
The Tide started fast and ran out to an early 8-0 lead, forcing an Ole Miss timeout. John Petty and Alex Reese came off the bench and provided a ton of energy and good play. Reese had one of his best halves of his career, doing a little bit of everything. Hit a three? Check. Get a dunk? Check. Chase down a breakaway and block the shot? Check. Throw a perfect alley-oop pass to Petty for a dunk to close out the half? Check.
Bama finished the half with a 43-34 lead with Jones only playing two minutes in the period. The Tide shot better than they have all season, hitting 15-32 from the floor including 7-17 from three, but only made 6-10 free throws. Ole Miss shot 11-31 from the field, 1-6 from deep, and 11-15 from the free throw line to keep themselves in the game at the break.
Quinerly started the second half for Jones and took over the game. The little jitterbug seemed to get to the rim at will and score the basketball. The Villanova transfer also tossed in some three pointers as well. When Jones finally came back into the game, he quickly drew his fourth foul with his third charge of the night.
When Petty hit a three with 11 minutes remaining, the Tide had built an 11 point lead at 56-45. Bama stretched it out to 63-48 before Ole Miss went on a 7-0 run to close the gap. Petty answered with his third three point basket of the night and the Tide coasted from there. With 1:10 left in the game, Oats emptied the bench to the delight of the hundreds in attendance, and walk-on Britton Johnson drained a three point basket from the corner to end the scoring.
Here was the 3 pointer by Britton Johnson and the bench loved it! pic.twitter.com/iKJItY4aBj— Chicago Gump (@GriffinTSmith) December 30, 2020
Alabama’s shooting tailed off to 13-33 for 39%, only 5-20 from three point range and an awful 8-14 from the free throw line in the half. For the game, they finished with 43% shooting on 28-65 and 32% from deep at 12-37. The free throw shooting was awful at 14-24. The Rebels shot only 11-34 in the half with 0-7 from three and 8-20 from the free throw line. Overall Ole Miss finished 22-65 for only 33%, 1-13 (!) for 7% from three and 19-35 for 54% on free throws.
The Tide finished with 46 rebounds, 14 of the offensive variety, had 15 assists, 15 turnovers, five blocks, and six steals. The Rebels had 47 boards, 19 on the offensive end, only three assists, 17 turnovers, three blocks, and seven steals.
Alabama had three players finish in double figures, and all three came off the bench. Quinerly had 24 points on 8-14 shooting, with 3-5 made three pointers, and added five rebounds. Petty knocked down 13 points, hit 3-7 from deep and had six rebounds. Reese finished with 10 points and four rebounds, as his minutes were limited due to being “banged up” according to Oats. Shackelford led the team in minutes with 33, scored nine points, led the team with seven rebounds and four assists, and won the team’s hard hat award for the game. Primo had six points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. Arizona State transfer Romello White was high man for the Rebels with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Oats said that Petty “gave the team a boost off the bench” and was pleased with his effort and engagement. The coach went on to mention that Petty had the three best practices of his Alabama career over the last few days. Oats also praised Reese as a senior leader who has “totally turned himself around” and that he is all about the team and what he can do to help. Ole Miss came into the game leading the nation in scoring defense and Oats was impressed that the Tide could put 82 on them despite not shooting particularly well from the field, and shooting horribly from the free throw line.
This was a great win to open SEC play, and much needed as the stretch of games is a gauntlet. Next up is at Tennessee on January 2 at 5 p.m., followed by Florida at home, Auburn and Kentucky on the road, and Arkansas at home. The Tennessee game will be shown on ESPN2.