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Alabama Basketball Blows Out Ole Miss En Route to Making a Bid for the NCAA Tournament

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Final Score: 103-78

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

For what feels like the first time in at least a decade, Alabama’s basketball team shot out to a commanding lead by the end of the first half, and then held on to and extended that lead throughout the entire second half. There was never a single moment of gut-wrenching nervousness over the existential fear of the 2nd half collapse that we’ve become so accustomed to over the years.

Hey, blowouts are fun. Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise with their platitudes of “fun, close games.” It’s not worth it.

Anyway, things actually didn’t start all that well for Alabama, as Ole Miss opened the game with a three-pointer and then immediately got a steal off of Alex Reese and returned it for a dunk. Reese did make a layup on the next possession to make up for it, but then he and Beetle Bolden had back-to-back turnovers, and Ole Miss was up 9-2.

It was pretty much the last good stretch of play from the Rebel-Bear-Sharks, as hilarity ensued on back-to-back-to-back plays with Herb Jones and Kira Lewis.

Jones scored under the basket because the man covering him tried to help out with Lewis (likely assuming Jones’s lack of a usable hand made him a non-factor on offense). Ole Miss turned the ball over, and this time Lewis’s man tried to help defend Jones on the inside, and Alabama kicked the ball out to Lewis for a three-pointer.

Ole Miss Coach Kermit Davis blew a gasket and called a timeout to regroup and make sure his defense didn’t keep leaving Kira Lewis open at the three point arc. Upon resuming play, the Rebels turned the ball over again, and the same defender left Lewis to try and help double Jones again, who, again tossed the ball out to Lewis, who, again, drained an open three.

The poor guy then got benched.

That sequence got Alabama enough points to retake the lead and calm the crowd down a little, and they then got to work on slowly extending their lead. The Tide struggled a bit with turnovers, Alex Reese in particular, in the first half, but they got some decent production out of Reese, Galin Smith, and Javian Davis under the basket. That slower pace, combined with a good bit of chippy play from the Rebels drawing fouls on both teams, kept the score low and fairly close for most of the first 13 minutes of the game.

With 6 minutes to go, Jaden Shackelford got hot and scored 8 straight points for Alabama, and a minute later— after a round of fouls and a technical foul on Kermit— came the highlight play of the game:

Petty scored a couple more times and Alabama made it to the half with a solid 45-31 lead.

The Tide continued to press their advantage from the onset, as Herb Jones got a layup in the first 18 seconds of the second half. Ole Miss didn’t just keel over, though, as they fought to keep Alabama from extending the lead any further and actually managed to cut it down to 11 points with 15 minutes to go.

John Petty went up for a rebound and, in a tangled flurry of arms and elbows, wound up on the floor with now whistle from the officials. This drew the ire of Coach Nate Oats, who ended up with a technical foul.

On the very next drive, Ole Miss star player Breein Tyree drew a technical foul of his own, and then nearly drew a second one for arguing with the officials. Except Coach Kermit Davis was also arguing with the official and got his 2nd technical foul of the game. The end result was Kermit getting ejected and Beetle Bolden getting to shoot four free throws.

Bolden made all four of them and then made sure to egg on the crowd of Ole Miss fans that had been booing non-stop for at least five minutes:

That sequence pretty much took the life out of Ole Miss, and Alabama spent the rest of the half extending their lead with some nice passing under the basket and sharpshooting from three-point range. Even forward Javian Davis hit his first three pointer of the season late in the game, while back-ups Raymond Hawkins, Tyler Barnes, and Britton Johnson all got a few minutes at the end of the game as Alabama climbed past the 100-point mark.

John Petty led the team with 21 points, while Kira Lewis had 17 points and led the way with 11 assists for the double-double. Jaden Shackelford had 18 points, and forwards Alex Reese and Javian Davis both hit double digits with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Herb Jones led the team with 2 steals and 3 blocks, one of which was an utterly dominant block from the three point line:

Alabama shot 43% from three point range on 30 attempts, and went 55% on 67 shots overall. Ole Miss actually was quite efficient under the basket, going 55% overall as well, but their 21 turnovers (over half were unforced) led to them taking 20 less shots than Alabama, which just isn’t a good formula for success.

It honestly feels weird to be writing a recap that didn’t involve a horrible slump from the Tide and/or blowing a huge lead to wind up in a nail-biter of a game. Alabama got the lead early, kept on the offensive, and continued to extend their lead at a steady pace for the rest of the game.

They played well under the basket, from three point range, and even hit some mid-range jumpers when needed. There was a lot of decisive passing to get men open rather than one man driving “hero ball,” as evidenced by the 25 total assists for the Tide.

With the decisive victory today and the LSU win moving up to a “Quadrant 1” win for Alabama, the Tide is likely firmly back in the discussion for making the NCAA tournament. Miss State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are all very winnable games, and Alabama could very well go in to the SEC tournament on a 5 game winning-streak.

The flip side of that is that all those games have become must-wins. A “winnable” game also means “a game you shouldn’t lose.” The Tide might be forgiven one loss to Miss State or South Carolina, but it’s a big might. Lose to Vandy or Missouri, though, and it’s a death knell.

So this could get very interesting over the next three weeks.

Roll Tide!