Tide Win Exciting, Though Not Pretty

A basketball team that plays bad offense and doesn't shoot well is going to have a hard time winning. But a team that plays good defense will always have a chance to win. It wasn't great basketball Saturday night at Coleman Coliseum, but with double overtime it was thrilling, and it came out well for Alabama.

Alabama got some timely defensive plays, notably from Trevor Releford, and the Crimson Tide managed to squeak by Ole Miss, 69-67, Saturday night. Bama's largest leads of the night were five points, once in the first overtime and once in the final seconds of the second overtime. The Rebels hit a meaningless, unguarded three-point shot at the buzzer to make it a two-point final.

The game left both teams with a 4-4 Southeastern Conference record. The Crimson Tide is now 15-7 overall and the Rebels fell to 14-8.

Alabama is on the road for its next two games, at Auburn Tuesday (8 p.m. CST) and at LSU next Saturday. The Tide returns to Coleman Coliseum Tuesday, Feb. 14, against Florida.

Releford had two steals, one leading to a slam by Tony Mitchell, and forced a turnover in the overtime periods. For the game Releford had five steals.

"We kind of expect that from him," teammate Andrew Steele said of Releford's defensive plays. "We stayed the course tonight. We stepped it up defensively, and I think that frustrated them."

Alabama coach Anthony Grant said, "I could not be prouder of the effort our guys gave today. You know the first half we really struggled. Give Ole Miss credit, I feel like they shot the ball extremely well, they were tough defensively. We had to find different ways to manufacture points during the first half.

"In the second half, at half time we talked about what we needed to do from a defensive stand-point and I thought from that point forward the defense just continued to get better and better and better over the course of the rest of the game. I thought we looked stronger in the overtime than we looked during regulation and that's a credit to the hard work and courage our guys showed tonight."

Alabama wasn't playing great defense in the first half. The Rebels hit 14 of 25 field goals for 56 per cent and had a 33-26 lead. Mississippi had led by as many as 10 points in the opening period.

However, Bama chipped away and had a three-point lead and the ball with under two minutes to play in regulation. But when Releford had a tough lay-up shot spin out, the Rebels were able to send the game to overtime on Ole Miss's Terrence Henry's lay-up and plus one with just under a minute to make it 54-54. When the Rebels fouled Bama with under 35 seconds to play, it enabled the Tide to play for the last shot, but Alabama's end game was somewhat lacking and the Tide had to settle for a hurried jumper by Levi Randolph that must missed.

In the first overtime, the Rebels drew first blood on a short jumper by Reginald Buckner, but the Tide came back with a tipi-in by Green. Moments later, Green made a layup and was fouled by Buckner, who fouled out. His free throw made it 59-56. A minute later the Tide built a five-point lead with just over two minutes to play when Nick Jacobs got two free throws home.

But Nick Williams scored the final five points of the first half to send it to a second overtime at 61-61.

Green fouled out on the first possession of the second overtime and the Rebels took a 62-61 lead. the teams swapped missed shots and rebounds until just over two minutes remained when Releford made a steal at mid-court, managed to get the ball ahead to Steele, who passed to Mitchell for a slam that put Alabama ahead to stay.

Alabama closed out the game with Steele making a key jumper to just beat the shot clock and Mitchell making two free throws and Steele and Releford both making one foul shot.

There was a time when it looked as though fouls might be Alabama's downfall. Incredibly, in the first half Alabama had four consecutive offensive possessions that were lost to offensive foul turnovers.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant must have taken exception to the calls as he earned a homecourt SEC technical foul for the second time this year.Alabama was called for 18 fouls, Ole Miss for 14, but the Bama margin of victory was actually at the free throw line. Alabama made 12-18, the Rebs 9-16.

Alabama played 11 men and 10 of them had at least 10 minutes of playing time in the 50-minute game. Bama's bench out-scored Ole Miss's by 34-8. Alabama also had more second chance points, 15-5, although the Tide had only a 42-40 margin in rebounding.

Green scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds before fouling out. Mitchell and Charles Hankerson came off the bench to join Green in double figures with Mitchell credited with 14 points (including two that it seemed Nick Jacobs made on a putback) and Hankerson had 10.

Ole Miss was led by 19, Henry with 14, and Buckner with 11.

Ole Miss hit 26-61 field goals for 42.6 per cent, while Bama managed only 27-68, 36.4 per cent. The Rebels were good on 6-11 three-pointers, 54.5 per cent. Alabama abandoned the three-point try in the second half and finished with only 3-17, only 17.6 per cent. But Bama had nine steals to five for Mississippi, and the Rebels had 17 turnovers, Alabama only 12.

Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy said, "I thought both teams played extremely hard. It wasn't always the best executed game but it's one of those games that you just feel bad about. Obviously we feel really bad because we are the ones taking the loss. You feel bad for either team that had to lose because of how hard guys played. We were both playing guys heavy minutes and you could see fatigue and fouls play a factor. Ultimately at this level it always comes down to a play here or a play there and you have to make that play. Alabama made it."

TIDE NOTES – Mitchell did not start the game for Alabama, a decision Grant said was based on practice. Bama started three freshmen – Trevor Lacey (who played only three minutes in the second half), Levi Randolph, and Nick Jacobs, along with Releford and Green.

Less than eight minutes into the game, Grant had subbed out all starters with Ben Eblen, Mitchell, Steele, Hankerson, and Moussa Gueye coming in. Later, Rodney Cooper saw action.

The overtime contest was the 105th in UA history. Alabama is 56-48-1 all-time in overtime games.

It was also the 12th double-overtime game in program history and the first since 2009. UA is 10-2 in double-overtime contests.

Alabama outscored Mississippi, 36-34, in the paint. UA has outscored 21 of its 22 opponents in the paint.

Alabama's bench scored a season high 34 points. In its last three games, UA's bench has averaged 28.7 points per game.

JaMychal Green recorded his 24th career double-double, the most among an active SEC player with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

His 12 boards give him 856 in his career to move him into 11th all-time at UA past Richard Hendrix. Of his 12 boards, six were off the offensive glass, a season high.

Charles Hankerson, Jr., scored 10 points, his most in an SEC game.

Alabama improved to 3-1 in home SEC games this season.

The Tide has won 28 of its last 30 home games and 12 of its last 13 home SEC games.

The Tide improved to 117-52 all-time against Mississippi, 71-10 in Tuscaloosa and 37-6 in Coleman Coliseum.

The Tide committed turnovers on 16.1 percent of its possessions, its second lowest percentage in an SEC game this season.

The announcers on the ESPNU telecast were both women, Pam Ward and Kara Lawson.

A week ago, Coleman Coliseum public address announcer Tony Giles was guilty of a mistake in introducing Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson as "Mike Davis," who followed Anderson as coach at UAB. This week Giles did not slip up and introduce Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy as "Andy Capp" or some such.

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