Tide Faces Rebels Basketball Hot-Shot

In 1970, Alabama Basketball Coach C.M. Newton made a decision. LSU was coming to Memorial (now Coleman) Coliseum with the fabulous Pete Maravich, the most prolific scorer in Southeastern Conference history. LSU had already beaten Bama in Baton Rouge, 90-83, and the rematch was set for Feb. 7 before a sellout crowd in Tuscaloosa.

Newton decided that Alabama's plan would be to allow Pete to get his points, but to hold the other LSU players to below their averages.

It would be a red letter day for Maravich and for the Southeastern Conference. No one can doubt that Newton's plan to "let Pete get his points" worked. Pistol Pete scored 69 points, still the conference and coliseum records.

And consider: This was in the day of no three-point line and no shot clock. The game did not go into overtime.

And the other part of Newton's plan worked, too. Alabama won the game, 106-104.

Not only do players not score 69 points on Alabama, neither do most teams. The Crimson Tide of Coach Anthony Grant has held 19 of its 29 opponents this season – including 12 of its last 15 foes – to under 60 points. Of course, it would take this Crimson Tide about a week to score 106 points as that 1970 Bama did. Alabama averages 63.1 points per game, only 61.1 in SEC contests.

The reason any of this is relevant is that Alabama goes to Ole Miss Tuesday for an important conference game. Tipoff in Oxford will be 8 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPNU.

Bama is 19-10 overall and 11-5 in SEC games. The Rebels are 21-8, including 10-6 in the conference. This is the only meeting this year between Alabama and Ole Miss. The Rebels have a 15-1 record in Tad Smith Coliseum this season.

The Rebels began the year at 17-2, but have stumbled over its last 10 games with a 4-6 record, including losses at South Carolina and at Mississippi State.

Alabama has won five of its last seven games.

Mississippi is one of the surprise teams in the SEC in great part because of junior guard Marshall Henderson. The well-traveled Henderson (though just a junior he has been at Utah, Texas Tech, and South Plains Junior College) leads the Rebels and the conference with 19.5 points per game. He leads the SEC and is second in the nation in three point shots made per game (3.9).

Statistically, he has made 114 three-point shots. He has already set the SEC record for attempted treys with 320. He has hit a three-point shot in every game this season.

But it's not just the quantity. In the Rebels' come-from-behind win against Georgia, Henderson scored 14 points in the final 3:36 to force overtime.

Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks sixth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 78.8 points per game. The Rebels also rank second in the league in scoring margin (+11.2) and sixth in the SEC in assists (12.9).

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said Henderson is "a terrific scorer. He scores in a variety of ways. He's got a great ability to make tough shots. So all you can do is try to make it difficult on him. Where he's really impressive is his ability to get to the free throw line. He's got a way of drawing contact, and he really knows how to play. We just have to do a great job of trying to be disciplined and make him work for what he gets. A guy like him, he's going to score, and the thing that you can't do is get discouraged. You have to try to do the best job you can, and just try to make it as difficult as possible."

Speaking of contact...

Teams on the road in the SEC historically (and notably in Alabama's case recently), the home team gets the calls and the free throw opportunities. In Alabama's loss in sixth-ranked Florida in Gainesville Saturday, Bama had more points from the field, but the Gators were 22-26 from the free throw line, the Tide 4-10 in a 64-52 Florida win.

Grant said playing without fouling "is a concern. "Especially going into a game like this, with Ole Miss' size and physicality, it's a concern. When you look at our last two road games, we've fouled 49 times to our opponents' 28, a 21 foul differential. You look at free throws, we've attempted 29 free throws, our opponents attempted 63 free throws in the last two games.

"You're dealing with a team in Ole Miss that in their last six games they're averaging 28 free throws a game. So that will be critical for us.

"(The media) talk all the time about how physical SEC basketball is and how it impacts games. For us, the last two road games, we feel like they've been physical. We have to do a better job of being able of getting ourselves to the free throw line, which is a critical part of our success and being able to keep our opponent off the free throw line.

"The last two road games, 63 free throws – over 31 attempts a game for our opponents – that's a 27-point differential, which is tough to overcome. That will be a point of emphasis for us. We have to do a better job there."

Grant said he had not talked to anyone in the SEC office about the situation.

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