Country star Brad Paisley will be the first musical act to perform in the brand new, $96.5 million Pavilion at Ole Miss later this month. In advance of that, the home team played a little Spanish flamenco music of its own against visiting Alabama in the first official event at the new venue. The Rebels jumped out to a 15-6 lead before an announced crowd of 9,500 en route to a 74-66 win over the Crimson Tide (9-4, 0-1 SEC). Despite the defensive efforts of Alabama senior Retin Obasohan, Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody scored 21 points, but it was his teammate, forward Sebastian Saiz of Spain, that hurt Alabama most of the night at big moments. The Under-20 Spanish national team member scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, controlling the glass at both ends.
Said Tide Coach Avery Johnson: “Terrific first half for us. We did some terrific things. The epidemic for our team has been the second half for most of our losses. We turned the ball over, and they dominated on the boards. Saiz really took it to us.
“We got in a little bit of foul trouble, and that hurt us. We didn’t do a good job in the second half making on time passes. Give Ole Miss all the credit. We don’t make excuses. They played well opening up their new building.”
The Tide was outscored 42-26 in the second half.
Obasohan led Alabama offensively with 23 points and four assists. He was joined in double figures by Arthur Edwards, who scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half. Mike Kessens scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Obasohan and Edwards tied career scoring highs in the loss.
While Ole Miss only hit four 3-pointers, it was the offensive glass that proved to be a big difference. The Rebels grabbed 15 offensive boards leading to 16 second chance points. Alabama lost the battle of the back boards, 37-30, after being tied at 19 on the glass at the half. Bama had 19 turnovers leading o 24 Ole Miss points.
It also hurt that junior center Jimmie Taylor picked up his third foul with 7:15 left in the first half, limiting his minutes while he scored two points for the game. Taylor picked up his fourth foul with 18:19 left in the game.
Things began well for Bama. Showing the pluck and grit mentioned in its fight song, the Tide battled back from a 10-point deficit to take a one-point lead late in the first half on an Edwards trey that followed a strong Kessens dunk.
After a first 20 minutes featuring three lead changes, Bama was up 40-32. The Tide closed the half on a 25-7 run.
Things did not go as swimmingly in the final 20 minutes. Bama went scoreless for nearly four minutes to open the second stanza, which allowed the Rebs to creep back in. Ole Miss tied it at 44 with 13:50 left, but Edwards drained a trey to get Bama back up. With 9:22 left, Ole Miss went back up by one, then three when Moody fed Saiz for a hoop. Johnson took time out down 55-52 with 8:32 left and Ole Miss on a 7-0 run. That rally became 11-0, a game-changer, when Donta Hall fouled out and Moody hit a pair of free throws with 6:55 to go. Obasohan hit a runner with 6:20 left to end the run, but the Tide never retook the lead.
Alabama hosts an angry Kentucky team Saturday at 5:00 p.m. CT. The SEC Network will televise. Kentucky lost its SEC opener at LSU Tuesday. Bama lost Thursday for just the second time in nine games.
“I hope all our fans come out and pack Coleman Coliseum like (Ole Miss) packed their building tonight,” Johnson said of Saturday’s contest. “This was a really enthusiastic crowd tonight.”