Alabama had lost seven straight games at Ole Miss, including all six in the coaching reign of Mark Gottfried. And the Tide trailed by 34-28 at halftime. But primarily on the strength of good defense and good three-point shooting in the second half, the Crimson Tide was able to hold on to first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
Alabama, ranked 22nd in the nation (and likely to go up a few spots when new polls come out, primarily because of the 98-49 stomping of Mississippi State last Tuesday), is now 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. The Rebels fell to 11-8 overall and 2-4 in conference play.
Three-point shooting success in the second half was instrumental in Alabama's victory. The Tide hit seven treys in the second half and ten for the game. Kennedy Winston hit four three-pointers in five attempts as he led Bama with 26 points. Jean Felix hit three treys, including two in a row that took Alabama from down by five points (47-42) to up by 48-47. Felix finished with 12 points.
The Rebels came back to take a 49-48 lead, but when Winston hit a pair of free throws with 9:41 to play, Bama had the lead for good.
Bama also played excellent defense, particularly in the second half when the Rebels were held to only 24 points. Ole Miss shot only 40 per cent for the game and only 33 per cent in the second half.
Bama shot well from the field. The Tide hit 19 of 36 (53 per cent) from the field, including 10-21 (48 per cent) on three-pointers. Alabama, usually a good free throw shooting team, was nearly undone by its poor free throw shooting. Bama finished with only 18-28 (64 per cent).
Jermareo Davidson had 13 rebounds as the Tide had a 37-18 advantage on the boards.
Earnest Shelton, who had 34 points in the romp over Mississippi State, was a non-factor for much of the game, but his trey with 4:10 remaining gave Bama a six-point lead at 60-54. He finished with 10 points.
Point guard Ron Steele had only six points–a three-pointer to start the game and another to give Bama its first lead of the second half at 40-39–but had his second straight excellent game insofar as assists to turnovers. On the road he had eight assists and only one turnover after having had a 10-1 game against Mississippi State.
The lone Tide starter who was not a big factor was power forward Chuck Davis, who was plagued by foul trouble.
Mississippi was able to stay with Alabama primarily because of a game plan in which the Rebels milked the clock to keep it a low-tempo game, tenacious defense on the ball that kept the Tide from getting the ball inside, and good ball-handling. The Rebels did not have a turnover in the first half.
Gottfried called it "a good win, a grind-it-out win. They had a spurt just before the half to get momentum, but we came back and did what we had to do. Our guys know how to win." He added that Bama's use of zone defense for much of the game "helped us. A lot of our success comes from how we're guarding people."