Alabama Wants To Keep Playing Well

There's a temptation to say that Alabama's game at Ole Miss to close out regular season play Saturday afternoon doesn't matter. That's looking at the short term, the seeding in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

When Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said Friday that "There's a lot on the line right now," he was almost certainly thinking in terms of having his team continue to play at a high level. Barring one scenario, an Alabama victory over Ole Miss or a Bama loss to the Rebels won't affect seeding for the SEC Tournament next week.

The Crimson Tide and Mississippi will tip off at 3 p.m. CST in Oxford Saturday with television coverage on the SEC Network. At the same time in Knoxville is the game that is more likely to determine if Alabama is the fourth seed in the SEC Tournament or the fifth seed.

Alabama is 20-9 overall and 9-6 in SEC play. Ole Miss is 17-12 overall this season, 7-8 in the SEC and 11-2 at home. Florida and Vanderbilt are the only two teams to win at Tad Smith Coliseum this season.

Alabama is tied for fourth in the league with Tennessee. If Tennessee defeats Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, there will be either a three-way tie for third or four-way tie for second and in the Tide ends up as the fifth seed for the tournament. If Vandy beats the Vols, Alabama will be either tied with Tennessee or ahead of the Vols for the fourth seed, and Bama wins the tie-breaker based on the Tide's regular season win over UT.

The top four seeds in regular season play have first round byes in the SEC Tournament.

The Crimson Tide has won seven of its last nine games and four straight. The winning streak has helped the Tide record its second straight 20-win season and the 26th in the program's history.

The Tide is 3-4 in SEC road games and 8-6 away from campus this season. But Mississippi returns home after rallying to beat Arkansas, 77-75, on Tuesday for its second straight win.

In the first meeting between the two programs, UA edged Mississippi, 69-67, in double overtime at Coleman Coliseum behind a 16-point, 12-rebound performance from JaMychal Green.

"We've got a tough game on the road against Ole Miss," Grant said. "It was a challenging double-overtime game the last time we played them. We've got to be prepared for it to be a very emotional game with it being ‘Senior Night' at their place and a lot on the line right now."

Alabama's defense has held its last two opponents to 99 combined points and remains one of the top in the nation by allowing a just 57.8 points per game this season, the ninth best average in the nation and the best in the SEC. Only 11 of Tide's 29 opponents have even reached the 60-point mark in regulation this season and five have failed to score 50 points.

In its 15 SEC games to date, UA has been led in scoring by six different players. On Wednesday against Auburn, Green led the Tide with his 25th career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the win. In the last three games, Rodney Cooper has averaged 10.7 points on 51.9 percent shooting and 44.4 percent from the arc and the freshman has averaged 10.7 points per game on the road in the SEC with his top two games of the season coming away from Tuscaloosa.

Terrence Henry leads Mississippi with 12.4 points per game while Murphy Holloway averages 11.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Following Saturday, both teams will begin postseason play at the SEC Tournament in New Orleans with the date and opponent to be determined after the conclusions of the final weekend of conference play.

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