No. 20 Ole Miss at Alabama
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m. CT
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama (11-6, 2-3 SEC), Ole Miss (14-3, 4-1 SEC)
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (95.3 FM locally)
There may have been a time, back in the preseason, when a home game with Ole Miss might have looked like a respite for the Alabama men’s basketball team as it came off a two-game road trip that included a game against a highly-regarded Tennessee team in Knoxville.
That thinking has long since been thrown out the window.
The Rebels, who were picked 14th in the Southeastern Conference in the annual preseason polls (that includes the coaches, not just the misguided media) are now ranked No. 20 in the country by the Associated Press. With only a loss to LSU marring its SEC record, Ole Miss is squarely in title contention in the early part of the SEC race. For an Alabama team that came painfully close to knocking off Tennessee (now the nation’s No. 1 team, per the AP poll), regrouping must be instantaneous.
“I thought we were locked in, but we just had poor execution on both ends of the floor,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We looked a step slow on defense in the first half. But I don’t think we were shaken by the crowd and it was obviously an unbelievable crowd (a sellout of more than 24,000 seats), especially for a freshman point guard. But we went into the (halftime) locker room (and) streamlined some things on defense. We put Kira (Lewis) on the ball and moved Herb (Jones) onto someone else. We ran a play on our first possession (of the second half) for John Petty and got him going. We made some shots. So I thought from a confidence standpoint, we were fine. We just didn’t make plays, especially in that last eight minutes.”
“People want to talk about that Petty travel (on Alabama’s final possession) but it should never have come down to that.”
Ole Miss will present a different defensive challenge, with less inside scoring punch than Tennessee but explosive with a prolific backcourt.
Junior guard Breein Tyree leads the Rebels in scoring with 17.5 points per game, while senior Terence Davis — the current SEC Player of the Week — is collecting 16.2 points per contest. Davis also leads the Rebels in rebounds (6.1) and assists (3.7) and has made a team-leading 35 three-pointers.
“I hope they don’t come to Tuscaloosa,” Johnson joked at his Monday press conference. “They’re really good with or without the ball. They’re very explosive and very athletic for their size.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.