Alabama Focus Has To Be On Ole Miss

It would be easy to bemoan relatively close losses to the nation's top teams, number one Florida (two games by 15 points), undefeated number two Wichita State (67-72), number six Duke (64-74). Alabama, though, must worry about Mississippi.

Alabama and Ole Miss will tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford. ESPN3 will televise the game.

Bama defeated the Rebels two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa when Trevor Releford hit a three-point shot with .6 second remaining for a 67-64 decision.

A Crimson Tide win won't salvage a season that is destined to be under .500. With four regular season games to play, Bama is 11-16 overall and 5-9 in Southeastern Conference play.

"We knew we were playing a competitive schedule," Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said. "A lot of games, non-conference and even in the conference, have been one or two possession games. It comes down to the little things. A rebound, a defensive stand, fouling. We've had breakdowns defensively and rebounding that have cost us games. Over the course of the season you try to see what you do well and what you don't and you have to cover your deficiencies. You don't go into a season thinking you're going to win every game or lose every game. You have to play the games.

"We had a chance to win one or more of those games. We knew we were playing a challenging schedule, but we didn't do what we had to do to win one of those games.

"Now we go to Ole Miss. That's where our focus has to be now."

The Rebels are 16-11 overall and 7-7 in SEC play. Ole Miss is led by prolific scorer Marshall Henderson, who ranks third in the SEC in scoring at 19.5 points per game.

In the previous meeting against Bama, Henderson was held to 14 points on the worst shooting night he has had in SEC play this year, 4-15 from the field (4-14 on three-pointers. (If he makes a trey against Bama – and he averages making a nation's best 4.5 per game --, it will be an SEC record 61st consecutive game with a three.)

Henderson shoots mostly three-pointers. He has made 140 of 380 shots this year. Of those, his three-point totals are 108-294.

Grant said, "He's a great player and a great shooter. He has the ability to make shots. We were fortunate in the last game that some of his shots didn't go in."

Alabama senior guard Trevor Releford, who stole the thunder from Henderson in the earlier meeting with 26 points – 21 in the second half, including the dramatic game-winner --, said Henderson "is great. You have to be ready to guard him. I've never seen anyone take the shots he takes, but he makes them. His team has confidence in him."

Releford suffered a bruised thigh in Alabama's last game, an 80-73 win over Missouri. ‘It was hurting pretty bad, but you have to fight through it," Releford said. He said he would test it again in practice Tuesday, but he said he feels sure he will be able to go against the Rebels.

When Releford went out for a few minutes against the Tigers, his place was taken in the lineup by junior Levi Randolph, and Randolph had the game of his college career, scoring 33 points against Missouri.

"I was happy and proud for Levi the way he played in the last game," Releford said.

Randolph may make the starting lineup against Ole Miss, in part because of his Missouri game and in part because Grant doesn't have many options. Junior post player Nick Jacobs continues on his "leave of absence," leaving only eight scholarshipped players. True freshmen Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale are piling up minutes, along with Releford, Randolph, junior Rodney Cooper, and sophomore Retin Obasohan. Center Carl Engstrong and guard Algie Key, both juniors, are seeing less time than the others.

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