Did anyone really expect Retin Obasohan to go scoreless when Alabama opened Southeastern Conference play in Nashville Thursday evening against Ole Miss? Well, probably no one expected him to go scoreless in the first half, but he did. And no one would have expected the Crimson Tide to have a four-point lead at intermission with Obasohan having to sit out seven minutes with two fouls in the first half.
But Alabama threw in 12 three-point shots and blocked 12 Ole Miss attempts and Obasohan scored 17 second half points as the Crimson Tide overcame the 39-point performance of the Rebels’ Stefan Moody and took an 81-73 win.
Tenth-seed Alabama improved to 18-13 on the year, while No. 7 Ole Miss fell to 20-12.
Alabama’s reward is the Crimson Tide gets to meet SEC co-champion Kentucky in Friday’s third round at Bridgestone Arena with tipoff at 6 p.m. CST. The Wildcats had two solid wins over Bama in regular season play this year, 77-61 in Tuscaloosa early in the season and 78-53 in Lexington three weeks ago. Bama’s win over the Rebels avenged a 74-66 loss to the Rebels in Oxford to start SEC play this year.
Obasohan, an All-SEC senior guard who committed two fouls in the first five minutes of the game, came out with a vengeance in the second half, scoring all 17 of his points, including seven of Bama’s first 10 points in the first four minutes after the break. Alabama went up by eight points, 50-42, and the Rebels never got closer than five points the rest of the game.
Alabama had been down by seven points in the early going, but after Obasohan was forced out of the game the Tide went on an 18-7 run. Riley Norris had nine of Alabama’s first 11 points in the game and nine for the half, while Arthur Edwards had 10 first-half points. Bama shot a blistering 15 of 27 from the field in the first half, including making 8-13 treys as Bama went to intermission with a 40-36 advantage.
Alabama had a nine-point lead at 61-52 midway through the second half when back-up guard Justin Coleman scored back-to-back baskets, the second a three-pointer, to stretch the lead to 14. Moody scored five points in a matter of moments at about the five-minute mark, but Norris followed a missed shot with a fine follow-up and followed that up with a pair of free throws to make it a 10-point lead with under four minutes to play.
Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said that it would not be possible to keep Moody, the SEC’s leading scorer this year, from getting his points. The game plan was to make sure that no other Rebels had big games, and the Tide defense was successful in that strategy.
Meanwhile, Obasohan had plenty of help from his teammates. Norris finished with 16 points and also had a game-high 11 rebounds. Edwards and Coleman had 15 points each. Johnson said the offensive plan was, “We wanted to make sure we had at least two or three in double figures.”
The Tide coach also complimented Obasohan on his second half turnaround. “He had tremendous energy in the second half,” Johnson said.
Defensively, Alabama blocked a season-high 12 shots, five by Donta Hall and three by Edwards.
Bama hit 28-53 from the field (52.8 per cent) and 12-24 on three-point tries (50 per cent), and fortunately didn’t have to rely on free throw accuracy as the Tide managed only 13-28 (46.4 per cent). The Rebels made 26-67 from the field (38.8 per cent) and 11-34 on treys (32.4 per cent) and were just about as bad from the foul line, 10-20 (50 per cent).
Obasohan made only 6-12 from the field, including 1-5 on three-pointers (his first shot of the second half being the made trey), and 4-10 on free throws. Norris was 4-7 on threes, Edwards 3-5, and Coleman 2-5.
Alabama had 14 assists on its 28 field goals with Coleman having five, Edwards three.
Alabama was not good on the boards. Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 43-35, primarily because the Rebs had 15 offensive rebounds to only five for Alabama.