Alabama Holds Off Ole Miss, 76-67

Mykal Riley made a lot of big shots, but his biggest contribution to Alabama's Southeastern Conference basketball victory over Mississippi Wednesday night may have been an alert defensive play.

Alabama took a 76-67 win over Ole Miss in Coleman Coliseum Wednesday, improving the Bama record to 14-11 overall and 3-7 in SEC games. The Rebels, who opened the season with a 13-0 non-conference record and also won a non-conference game on Monday night, fell to 17-6 overall and 3-6 in conference games.

Mykal Riley led the Tide with 22 points, including making five of Bama's six three-point shots (he was 5-12 and the rest of the team was 1-10). Riley was also 7-8 on free throws as he and Mikhail Torrance made foul shots down the stretch that dashed any Ole Miss comeback hopes.

Riley played a major role in giving Alabama some breathing room when the Rebels were threatening early in the second half. Alabama had built as much as an 11-point lead late in the first half, but the visitors had cut that lead to only four points, 32-28, at halftime. Alabama's poor field goal shooting – the Tide was 9-37 for only 24.3 per cent – in the first half enabled the Rebels to stay within reach.

The Tide was still nursing a four-point lead when Alonzo Gee hit a short jumper with 17:20 to play. Riley then stepped in front of the Ole Miss in-bounds pass, picking it off. And the Tide made the opportunity pay off as Riley connected on a three-pointer to make it a five-point trip and increase the Bama lead to nine points, 39-20.

Although the game was close most of the night, Alabama was almost always in control. The only Mississippi lead came at 2-0 in the opening minute and the only tie was at 2-2. Alabama would have as much as a 14-point lead in the final 10 minutes of the game.

But Bama didn't put the game away until Riley and Torrance started making free throws. With just over two minutes to play the Alabama lead was only four points, 66-62. Riley made one of two free throws. After Ole Miss was off the mark on a trey, Riley buried a three-pointer with 1:19 to play, effectively burying the final chances for the Rebels.

Alabama put five men in double figures. In addition to Riley's 22, the Tide got 12 points from Alonzo Gee (who had another poor shooting night, 4-12 from the field including 0-4 from the free throw line, and 4-7 on foul shots) and 10 each from Richard Hendrix, Brandon Hollinger and Torrance.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said he was pleased with the balanced scoring. "I was proud of our guys," he said. "I like the way we played in a lot of ways. I thought our defensive effort was one of our best. Ole Miss does a good job of pushing the ball and we didn't give up a lot of easy ones."

He said it was good to win a game with free throws after Bama's many troubles from the foul line this year. "We were able to get the right guys on the line," Gottfried said.

Ole Miss outscored Alabama from the field. The teams had identical field goals numbers, 23-63 for 35.6 per cent, but the Rebels made two more three-pointers. Alabama's margin came at the foul line where the Tide hit 24 of 32 for 75 per cent and Mississippi had 13-22, only 59.1 per cent.

The Rebels have been one of the SEC's best rebounding teams. Alabama stayed with Ole Miss on the boards, Mississippi getting 44 rebounds, Alabama 42. Gee led the Bama effort with nine boards. The Tide more than made up for that by forcing 16 turnovers and suffering only 11. Alabama blocked eight shots and Ole Miss five.

Although both Hendrix and Gottfried said Hendrix was still suffering the effects of flu that kept him out of last Saturday's game at Kentucky, the junior power forward played 33 points and had eight rebounds and five blocked shots.

Alabama played a "big" lineup much of the night with Demetrius Jemison starting the game, but giving way to both Yamene Coleman and Justin Knox. Coleman started the second half and finished with six points in 17 minutes. Knox had four points and seven rebounds (six offensive boards) in 16 minutes.

Alabama is back on the SEC road Saturday, playing at South Carolina in a game that tips off at 6 p.m. CST and will be telecast regionally. Alabama is 0-4 in SEC road games this year. Gottfried said, "We've played well on the road. We just haven't played well enough to win."

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