Back in the Race

Ole Miss scored the first five points but Alabama went on a 10-point run and didn't looked back, leading for the final 36-plus minutes and earning a series split with its 64-50 win Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi.

Alabama (14-8 overall, 7-3 SEC), who dropped a 71-61 contest against Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa earlier this year, pulled to within one game of Southeastern Conference Western Division frontrunner LSU (16-7 overall, 8-2 SEC). LSU lost at Florida earlier Saturday afternoon. Ole Miss dropped it seventh straight contest, and fell to 13-10 overall, 3-7 in the league.

"We're 7-3 in the league because they have approached each game as, 'That's the most important thing.' We've got to keep doing that," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said.

Alabama evened out the scoring among its seven-man rotation. Six of the seven men had between eight and 13 points, and freshman Brandon Hollinger added three points.

Ole Miss closed the gap to 20-19 in the first half, but was never able to re-take the lead after the initial spurt. Alabama opened up a 10-point margin in the first half but led only by six at the break, 37-31. Ole Miss drew to within four in the early minutes of the second half, not any closer. Alabama maintained at least a six point lead the final 10 minutes en route to the 14-point final margin.

Ole Miss big man Dwayne Curtis, who went off for 21 points and 14 rebounds in the January 7th Alabama-Ole Miss contest, was held to 13 points and just four rebounds today. Curtis was Mississippi's leading scorer.

"Our defense was as good as we've played in a long time," Gottfried said. "Richard [Hendrix] did a good job of physically not letting Curtis get position on the floor. What we did with Curtis before he got the ball was big today."

Jermareo Davidson led Alabama's scoring, with 13 points on five of nine shooting. Hendrix had his fifth double-double of the year, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Evan Brock was three of four from the field and three of five from the free throw line totaling nine points. Jean Felix chipped in eight for the Tide.

Alabama was 25 of 42 (60 percent) from the field, including while Ole Miss was 19 of 53 (36 percent). Bama out-rebounded Mississippi 35-21.

Even with Alabama nipping at LSU's heels in the SEC Western Division, the Crimson Tide has a much tougher row to hoe in its final six games. Alabama's final six SEC opponents are a combined 26-29 in league play, while LSU's final opponents are a much weaker 19-37 in the SEC. [Mississippi State and South Carolina play Saturday, as do future LSU foes Tennessee, South Carolina and Arkansas.]

Alabama's remaining opponents are: at South Carolina (2/14), Tennessee (2/18), at Arkansas (2/21), Florida (2/26), Auburn (3/1) and at Mississippi State (3/4)

Remaining opponents for LSU are: Mississippi State (2/15), at Auburn (2/18), at Vanderbilt (2/22), Kentucky (2/25), at South Carolina (2/28) and Ole Miss (3/4).

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