OXFORD, Miss. — The University of Alabama basketball team came to Ole Miss with a four-game winning streak but without the energy to sustain it on Tuesday night.
Despite a couple of flurries, the Crimson Tide struggled on both ends for too much of the time, falling 78-66 to the Rebels.
“We had a stretch where we looked good in the first half and a shorter one in the second half but you can’t win playing 14 minutes off a 40-minute game,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “Since we’ve been here, we’ve taken pride in being a good road team but we are younger now and we have to impress on them that little things matter. An older team understands that. But we still have to learn that. And it’s tough because the SEC is tougher this year.”
Ole Miss got 24 points from guard DeAndre Burnett, taking advantage of what Johnson called a “lethargic” defensive effort by Alabama.
“We gave them too many open looks, too many opportunities,” Johnson said.
The first half was a strange sandwich of streakiness for Alabama, which went on an 18-0 run midway through the half, but wedged that between two Ole Miss streaks. The Rebels opened the game 18-9 and closed on an even stronger stretch, exploding for 23 points in the final five minutes as part of a 23-4 run. That gave Ole Miss a comfortable 10-point edge, 41-31, at intermission.
“Our approach was really good coming out,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “You can see how big they are. We had to move them, drive on them and, of course, it helps when you make shots.”
The Rebels shot 50 percent from the floor, while Alabama made just 40 percent (26 of 62.)
Alabama freshman guard Collin Sexton returned after missing two games with an abdominal injury. He played 20 minutes, scoring seven points on just 2 of 13 shooting.
“It was good to have him back out there,” Johnson said. “He’s getting better but it takes time.”
“We weren’t sure if he was going to play,” Kennedy said. “He did, but he didn’t finish (at the basket) the way he usually does. Some of that was rust, and some of that was our defense. We planned to get physical with him.”
Donta Hall led Alabama with 14 points and seven rebounds. Dazon Ingram was the only other Alabama player in double figures with 10.
The Crimson Tide (13-7, 5-3 SEC) returns home Saturday to face Oklahoma as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.