Mitchell Keys Tide Win Over Ole Miss

Tony Mitchell was late to the party, but when the Alabama sophomore finally showed up he provided plenty of merriment for the Crimson Tide basketball team in sold-out Coleman Coliseum Saturday. Ole Miss forced a delay in the celebration, though, with a second half rally that made it close at the end.

After leading by 20 points at halftime and as many as 23 early in the second half, Alabama found itself hanging on for dear life before emerging with a key 74-64 win over Ole Miss. The Rebels never caught the Tide in the second half, but pulled to within six points.

It was not a surprise that Andrew Steele was in the starting lineup for Bama, but it was something of a surprise that he was starting for Tony Mitchell. Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said the starting lineup was "just a coach's decision."

The win came on the heels of Thursday's disappointing loss at Vanderbilt and improved Bama's record to 7-2 and kept the Tide in first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. Overall, Bama is 15-8. Ole Miss fell to 15-8 overall and 4-5 in league play.

Alabama has another Thursday road-Saturday home schedule next week. The Crimson Tide will be at LSU at 8 p.m. CST Thursday, and then return home next Saturday for a 6 p.m. CST Saturday game against Arkansas.

Senario Hillman did not have a point until the final 2:17, but made a key reverse layup and was fouled and made the shot to give Bama some breathing room at 68-59. Down the stretch Hillman made three more free throws as Alabama held off the Rebels rally.

Mitchell had only five second half points, but had 20 for the game. He also led Bama in rebounding with seven. Early in the game the Tide had a big rebound advantage, but at the end of the game the Rebels had a 37-35 advantage on the boards.

JaMychal Green had 15 points, five rebounds, six blocked shots (Bama blocked 11), and three steals, but also had six turnovers.

Trevor Releford had 14 points, seven assists and three of the Tide's 10 steals. (Ole Miss had only two steals.)

The Rebels were led by Chris Warren with 15 points, but the outstanding guard was only 2-10 in the game with the two made field goals coming in the final minutes. He hit 10-12 free throws. He came into the game as the SEC's second leading scorer, averaging 18.7 points per game. Zach Graham had 13 points and Dundrecous Nelson 11.

Ole Miss took only 23 shots in the first half (making only 9 for 39.1 per cent). The Rebels didn't shoot as well in the second half, but had a lot more shots (12-35 for 34.3 per cent). For the game Bama held Mississippi to 21-58 on field goals for 36.2 per cent. The Rebels hit 7-20 (35 per cent) on treys.

Alabama shot 52.8 per cent in the first half (19-36), but cooled off to a paltry 6-17 (35.3 per cent) in the second half and finished 25-53 for 47.2 per cent. Bama was 5-9 on three pointers in the first half, but only 1-4 in the second half, finishing 6-13 for 46.2 per cent.

Alabama made 18-26 free throws, Ole Miss 15-23.

Bama continued to dominate the opposition in the paint, outscoring Ole Miss 30-24 inside. Alabama had 23 points off the Rebels 16 turnovers and Ole Miss scored 14 points off the Tide's 13 miscues. Bama led by only 14-13 in second chance points and only 6-2 in fast break points.

Grant said, "I thought we set the tone. Our big focus with such a short turnaround was making sure we came out with great energy and I thought our guys did that. In the second half our energy wasn't the same. We shot ourselves in the foot with our turnovers. But we made free throws down the stretch and made some stops."

With the win, Grant said, "It gave us control again of our own destiny in the league."

Alabama used defense, rebounding, and good three-point shooting to take a 47-27 halftime lead against the Rebels. Ole Miss scored the first basket of the game, but then JaMychal Green hit three consecutive baskets to give Bama a lead it would not surrender.

But it was the insertion of Mitchell that ignited the Tide. In 10 minutes of first half he had 15 points and two assists.

Alabama built as much as a 21 point lead (on a Trevor Releford layup and assist from Mitchell after a steal by Senario Hillman) at 45-24 with two minutes remaining in the first half. The Tide had a 47-27 lead at the break as Mitchell drained a three-pointer with 19 seconds before halftime.

After the game, Mitchell said, "It doesn't matter if I come off the bench or start, I'm going to give it all I've got."

TIDE NOTES: Alabama has started SEC play at 8-2 for the first time since the 2001-02 season.

Tony Mitchell has had four consecutive 20-point scoring games -- 23 against Mississippi State, 24 at Tennessee, 22 at Vanderbilt, and 20 against Ole Miss.

Alabama is now 13-0 in Coleman Coliseum and 5-0 against SEC opponents this season.

Ole Miss became just the fifth SEC team to score at least 60 points against Bama. Alabama lost to Arkansas and Vanderbilt, defeated Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss when surrendering 60 or more points.

The Tide win ended a three-game winning streak for Ole Miss.

Alabama leads the all-time series against Mississippi, 116-51.

Chris Warren missed free throw with 6:12 remaining in first half to break string of 21 in a row. He made the next one to start a new string, but missed a second free throw with seconds remaining in the game. For the game he was 10-12 on free throws. He came into the game hitting 97 per cent of his free throws.

Alabama had a sellout of 15,383 and Grant credited the crowd for the energy it gave his team.

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