Tide Folds At Oxford

The Alabama basketball team, the Southeastern Conference championship and the number one Western Division seed for this week's SEC Tournament locked up, played as if it had no cares...including caring about winning. Although a high NCAA seed is almost a certainty for Bama, a number one seed is out of the question after Alabama folded against the Ole Miss Rebels in the final regular season game of the year Sunday.

In a nationally-televised game from Oxford, Alabama looked like anything but the nation's sixth-ranked team.

Ole Miss opened up with a 22-4 lead and cruised to an 84-56 embarrassment of Alabama. For much of the second half all the Crimson Tide could do was attempt to avert a loss of more than 30 points. Alabama had defeated the Rebels by 20 points, 79-59, in Tuscaloosa in the first game of the year.

Alabama finished regular season play with a 24-6 record and a 12-4 SEC mark.

In preparing for tournament time, Alabama had perhaps its poorest performance in a number of years. On defense, the Tide did not defend. On offense, Bama had too many trips in which there were turnovers or poor shots. And even on those occasions when the Tide took good shots, too often they did not fall. There was some pre-game speculation that this game would be a barometer of how Alabama might be expected to play in the NCAA Tournament, tough games away from home. Hopefully, that will not be the case.

Alabama cut the lead to 11 points and the Tide had the ball late in the first half, but five consecutive Bama turnovers enabled the Rebels to score the final 11 points of the half and open up a 42-20 halftime lead. That made the second half funtime for Mississippi and misery for Alabama.

Turnovers were particularly disastrous for Bama. The Tide had 26 turnovers and the Rebels turned those into 32 points. On the other hand, Alabama scored only eight points off 11 Mississippi turnovers. Alabama hit only 41 per cent from the field and the Tide's porr three-point shooting continued with Alabama connecting on only 29 per cent. Meanwhile, the Rebels had mostly uncontested shots from a lackluster Alabama defense, and college players ordinarily shoot very well when unguarded The Rebels connected on 55 per cent of their field goal tries, including an incredible 53 per cent on three-pointers.

Statistically, Alabama was led by Rod Grizzard who had 14 points and eight rebounds. Antoine Pettway came off the bench to score 12 points, all in the second half. Erwin Dudley, who has been considered a leading candidate for SEC Player of the Year, had only five points.

"We obviously did not handle the situation well," said Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried. "But we'll put this game behind us and learn from it."

Alabama will open SEC Tournament play Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Tipoff for the Tide will be at 3:15 p.m. EST, 2:15 p.m. central time. Alabama will meet the winner of Thursday's game between Arkansas and Tennessee.

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