The 7th ranked Alabama Crimson defeated Ole Miss rather easily on Tuesday night by a score of 84-62 in their SEC home opener. The Tide improved to 12-2 overall and 2-0 in SEC play while the Rebels fell to 8-6 and 0-2 in league. Coming off a road win over 21st ranked Mississippi State and with the always tough Kentucky Wildcats coming to town Saturday, Bama was in perfect position for a let down. Let’s be honest, last year’s team could very well have found a way to lose tonight. This year’s team is built differently and did not allow that to happen.
Coach Nate Oats ran out his usual starting five of Brandon Miller, Mark Sears, Noah Clowney, Jaden Bradley, and Charles Bediako to begin the game. Sears scored quickly and the Tide took the early lead. Bama started slowly again and Ole Miss took a lead of 8-5 with 15:09 left in the half. Bradley made two free throws at the 13:57 mark, giving the Tide a lead of 9-8 that they never relinquished. Over the last 12 minutes of the half Bama put together a clinic of three point baskets, drives and hoops, defense, rebounds, and assists to build a lead of 44-23.
In the half the Tide shot 17-30 for 57% including 5-8 from deep and also 5-8 from the free throw line. The team had 22 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks, four steals, and only four turnovers!! Sears had nine points and Miller eight. Miller did not make a three pointer in the stanza but had three spectacle hoops around the basket. Ole Miss was held to 10-35 for 20%, 2-15 from three for 13% and made 1-3 free throws. The Rebels had 21 boards, including 10 on the offensive glass and committed seven turnovers.
The Tide had the same starting lineup after the break and started out on a mission to put the Rebels away. Bradley made four free throws and Miller knocked down his first three pointer, and with 17:07 left Bama had pushed he margin out to 52-17. Jahvon Quinerly , playing his best game of the season, hit a long three and Bradley kept parading to the line after being fouled in the lane. With 9:19 left the score was 66-39 before the Tide let the Rebels have a 16-5 run to close within 15 points.
With 3:34 left the Tide had the ball out of bounds near half court with only a couple of seconds on the shot clock. Miller took the pass and sent the crowd in a frenzy by nailing a 40 foot shot as the clock expired. Bama hit more free throws and Quinerly hit another from long range to close out the win at 84-62. One cool moment was the Quinerly brothers, Jahvon and Jaden, able to get on the court together for the last minute of the game.
The Tide cooled down in the second half, shooting 12-33 for 36%, 4-12 from deep for 33%, and made 12-17 from the free throw line. Overall Bama shot 29-63 for 46%, 9-20 for 45% from three and 17-25 for 68% at the charity stripe. The Tide finished with 39 rebounds, five blocks, seven steals, 13 assists, and amazingly only six turnovers. Ole Miss shot 14-34 for 41% in the second with a goose egg, 0-9 from three, and 11-14 from the line. Overall the Rebels finishes 24-69 for 35%, and abysmal 2-24 for 8% from three, and 12-17 for 70% from the stripe. The Rebels won the battle of the boards, which is highly unusual for this Tide team, with 48, 17 of those on the offensive end. UM had eight blocks, four steals, nine assists, and 13 turnovers. This was one of the few times the Tide will win the turnover battle.
Individually Miller led the way with 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, and three steals. The freshman superstar played 29 minutes and shot 7-12, 2-6 from deep. Sears scored 16 points in 26 minutes and added six rebounds, one assist, and one steal while shooting 5-11 from the field. Bradley scored 14 mostly while shooting 10-12 from the free throw line and had three assists and three rebounds with only one turnover in 24 minutes. Clowney was also in double figures with 10 points and led the team with eight rebounds. Quinerly made it a quintet in double figures with 11 points on 4-7 shooting with 3-5 from deep, had three assists, one steal, and to the thrill of many, no turnovers. Bediako played tough in the paint and had six rebounds, three blocks, and four points. Nine players had double digit minutes, plus Nick Pringle played nine, as the Tide continues to show their depth despite still missing Nimari Burnett and Darius Miles.
This was a good win for Bama as stated earlier to not have a let down. For a team that starts three freshmen, a sophomore, and a transfer junior they show remarkable maturity. The depth is going to serve them well going forward. Other than the lull when Ole Miss was allowed to go on their run the Tide controlled the game without much trouble. Bradley is becoming the floor general, Clowney is a top flight inside player, Bediako is doing his job on defense and on the boards, Sears is a bulldog that plays tougher and bigger than his 6’0” would indicate he should, and Miller is simply the best player in the country. Mix that with Noah Gurley, Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen, Dom Welch, and Quinerly off the bench and this team has a chance to be special.
Next up is the team’s biggest nemesis, the Kentucky Wildcats. The Cats held on to beat LSU in Rupp on Tuesday by a score of 74-71. UK is 10-4 and 1-1 in conference play, but listening to their fans you would think they were 4-10. The expectations run high in the Blue Grass State which sounds familiar to a certain sport in Tuscaloosa. Kentucky is Kentucky and will always be dangerous. The Tide should win the game, but you can't just roll the ball out and beat the ‘Cats. The game will be at noon CT on ESPN. It has been a sell out for several days, and the students will be sure to come back early for this one. Coleman will be rocking.