The call for the understudy to assume the role was the entire Alabama (18-13, 8-10) T-E-A-M. Starters and bench players alike all contributed to the 81-73 defeat of no. 7 seed Mississippi (20-12, 10-8). During Wednesday’s afternoon practice, Head Coach Avery Johnson exhorted his team with the spirited directive, “Let’s make some shots”. The Tide responded by canning 28 of 53 (52.1%) attempts for the game including 12 of 24 from beyond the arc.
Ole Miss was successful on the first seven straight possessions. Bama countered from long range. Riley Norris kept pace with the hot start of the Rebels by nailing three consecutive treys and Justin Coleman converted on another to tie the score at 14-14. Donta Hall powered a layup for two and Jimmie Taylor used spin move before banking a shot off the glass from the right block to provide inside offense early in the contest.
Arthur Edwards chipped in 10 first-half points. Hall, Shannon Hale and Brandon Austin scored five points each for an additional 15 as Bama eclipsed an early seven-point deficit to lead 40-36 at halftime.
Second half offensive heroics for the no. 10 seeded team were provided by Obasohan and a three-person ensemble. Held scoreless in the first half, the All-SEC guard tallied 17 in the final stanza. Coleman, Edwards and Norris contributed 12, 5 and 7 for the other 24 second half point total of 41 and finished the contest with 15, 15 and 16 respectfully.
Alabama was balanced on offense and defense. Hall was the leader of the six-player block party with five (ties career high) as the Tide established a season high of 12. Edwards had a career high of three. Six different players had a single steal for the half-dozen team total.
Balanced scoring and confidence contributed to the impressive victory. They didn’t miss a beat in Music City as their star was on the bench Norris, the rebounding leader with 11, was conducting the post-game radio interview as the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me” serenaded those in attendance in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena. Obasohan leaned on his teammates to “share the load”. They not only shared the load, they delivered the win in style. Listen and watch Coleman, Obasohan, Hall, Edwards, Austin and Johnson discuss the SEC Tournament victory.
Point guard extraordinaire Ennis Whatley was recognized at halftime as the Tide’s representative for the 2016 SEC Men’s Basketball Legends class. A 2015 inductee into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the Birmingham native ranks first in school history with a 6.3 assist per game career average. His 220 assists recorded as a sophomore ranks second all-time in UA history for a single season.
As a freshman averaging 12.1 ppg, he helped Alabama win the SEC Tournament Championship and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Whatley increased his scoring average to 15.1 ppg the next year leading Bama to the SEC Championship Game and NCAA Tournament. The Phillips High School product earned NABC Second Team All-America and First Team All-SEC honors in 1983.
Whatley, a two-year letter winner, entered the 1983 NBA Draft after his sophomore season. He is one of 14 former Tide players chosen in the first round. The 13th overall selection went on to play a decade in the NBA along with a number of years overseas.
The past 18 Tide Legends: Reggie King (1999), Wendell Hudson (2000), T.R. Dunn (2001), Leon Douglas (2002), Buck Johnson (2003), Derrick McKey (2004), Gary Waites (2005), Jim Farmer (2006), Mike Nordholz (2007), Leon Marlaire (2008), Melvin Cheatum (2009), Charles Cleveland (2010), Robert Horry (2011), Jack Kubiszyn (2012), Wimp Sanderson (2013), Eddie Phillips (2014) and C.M. Newton (2015).