“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
The famous line from the Godfather is fitting for the way a lot of Tide fans are feeling today. After an absolutely horrible shooting game Saturday against Kentucky, Bama turned things around and had one of their best shooting games all year against Ole Miss. Alabama blistered the nets to the tune of 60% from the field, including 64% from three point range. The 97-83 victory over the Rebels improved the Tide to 15-9 overall and 5-6 in the league. Mississippi fell to 12-12 and 3-8 in the SEC.
Coach Nate Oats trotted out the starting five of Juwan Gary, Charles Bediako, Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, and Keon Ellis. The Rebels began the game as if they would never miss a shot, bolting out to a 15-7 lead as Jarkel Joiner scored 12 quick points. With right at 10 minutes left in the half Ole Miss had made 7-10 shots from three point range and raced to an 11 point lead over the Tide. Shackelford heated up and made 5-8 three point shots in a quick burst to help Bama grab a 49-38 lead at the break.
At halftime the Tide was shooting 17-31 for 55% including 8-12 for 67% from three and 7-8 free throws. Shackelford had 19 points in the first and Ellis added 10. The Rebels also shot extremely well in the period at 15-31 for 49% including 7-13 from deep and 1-4 from the free throw line. Joiner had 14 points total after scoring 12 in the first four minutes.
Ole Miss came out of the locker room and quickly went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 49-47 with 17:32 left. Oats inserted Jusaun Holt in the game and the Tide turned. Shackelford continued to knock down shots and was joined by Quinerly, Ellis, and JD Davison to push the lead out to 68-54 with 12:21 remaining. Noah Gurley joined in the fun, making a couple of baskets down low, then stepping out to hit a pair of three pointers. With about seven minutes left and a comfortable lead Oats had to scream at his team to “stop fouling” because at that point free throws were the Rebels’ easiest path back into the game. Davison continued having his way going to the basket and scoring at the rim, amd Bama cruised to the final margin of 97-83 as Ole Miss hit a meaningless three pointer at the buzzer.
In the second half the Tide shot 19-29 for 66% including 6-10 from three and made 4-7 free throws. Overall Bama was 36-60 for 60%, 14-22 from three for 64%, and 11-15 for 73% from the stripe. The Tide had 37 rebounds, 23 (!!!) assists, four steals, four blocks, and 12 turnovers. Mississippi shot 17-36 from the field for 47%, 5-15 from three for 33% and 6-10 from the line. Overall the Rebels finished 32-67 for 48%, 12-28 for 43% from three, and 7-14 from the free throw line. Ole Miss had 31 rebounds, 18 assists, six steals, one block and seven turnovers.
Individually Shackelford scored a career high 30 points making 10-17 field goals including 8-13 from three point range and finished at +15. Davison had his best game of the year with 18 points, eight assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block and was +17 on the night. Ellis finished with 13 points with four rebounds and two assists. Gurley made the most of his 17 minutes with 10 points, a team leading seven rebounds, two blocks, and the team’s hard hat award. Holt played a career high 26 minutes and made his presence known while only scoring two points. The freshman added six rebounds, three assists, and a team leading +22 in the game. Joiner scored a game high 33 for the Rebels by hitting the buzzer beating three at the end.
After the game Oats said the he was “happy that we shot well” and that the “players relaxed a little and hopefully now know they can make shots.” The third year coach praised Shackelford’s effort and mentioned that the junior “was sick for the Kentucky game,” and other than that contest has “played really well for us.” Oats continued that “Holt has been playing hard in games and practice so I rewarded him with more minutes tonight, and he took advantage of them.” Oats also said that “even though some guys had their minutes cut they were unselfish and happy for the team and their teammates.”
The Tide really needed this game, not just the win but also the way they played on offense. Seeing the ball go through the hoop had to lift a weight off of their shoulders. Shooting 63% from three point range isn't going to happen very often, but neither his shooting 10%. Hopefully they can become what they can be- in the 35-38% range- which will help to bring more victories. Ole Miss is a battered and beat up team but any win is needed at this point. The Tide’s defense will need to play better going forward over the last seven conference games.
Davison played so under control and didn't get loose with the ball like he has some this season. Shooting 7-8 from the field with 2-2 from three with eight assists and only two turnovers is the type of play that we have been waiting to see from the freshman. Holt was a great asset on the boards and on defense, and the kid always hustles. Gurley is showing signs of what was expected when he transferred from Furman. This win could catapult the team to a strong finish over the closing stretch of Arkansas, MSU, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and LSU.
Next up is “brunch with the Tide” as Bama hosts Arkansas at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday, on ESPN2. The Hogs are riding a nine game win streak and coming off of a thrilling overtime win over (previously) number one ranked Auburn.
Roll Tide Roll