Losing streak reaches 7 as Rebs fall again

Ole Miss has now lost seven straight games since a 3-0 Southeastern Conference start. The Rebels are 13-10 on the season.

Alabama shot lights out against Ole Miss Saturday afternoon and defeated the Rebels, who can't score enough points to beat anybody lately.

The final score was 64-50 as for the second-straight game the Rebels were held to 50 points. Last Wednesday Ole Miss lost at Auburn 58-50.

Turnovers had been the problem recently for Ole Miss. The Rebs had 23 against Auburn. Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes said his team worked on correcting that even more prior to this game, and he was right as the Rebs had only 11, well under their recent turnover totals.

But also for the second-straight game, Barnes' ballclub had a poor second half as far as point production goes, scoring just 19 points against the Crimson Tide in half No. 2, and scoring only 21 in the second stanza at Auburn.

A team that appeared headed for postseason play at 3-0 on the young conference season now can't stop a losing skid that has reached seven games. Barnes' team has lost a lot of the swagger it had in mid-January.

"You can tell we're not the most confident team by our play," said Barnes, whose team fell to 13-10 overall and 3-7 in Southeastern Conference play. "We've got to work our way out of this and gain our confidence back."

Tall order when nothing appears to be going your team's way. Offensively not enough points to beat basically anybody. Defensively not playing as well as the coach wants you to.

"We spent a lot of time the last few days working on taking care of the basketball, and we seemed to get that cured," he said. "But now in today's game we didn't guard as well as we needed to guard. That hurt us today."

It's all taking its toll on a team that seemed to have an identity earlier but has lost its way since.

An Alabama team that has gone 7-2 in SEC play since losing to Ole Miss 71-61 in the SEC opener in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Jan. 7 played with the confidence the Rebels are lacking. In the first half, the Crimson Tide shot a blazing 72 percent (15-of-21) from the floor but led only 37-31 at intermission. And while the torrid shooting pace wasn't quite sustained throughout the second half (although UA ended up shooting 60 percent for the game), the Tide never lost its lead to gain a split with the Rebels in the season's two-game series.

"This was definitely a team win today," said Bama head coach Mark Gottfried, whose team improved to 14-8 overall and 7-3 in league play. "We played as balanced a game offensively as we have all year. We shot it well and we shared the basketball. But it was definitely our defense that carried us in the second half."

That Ole Miss scored but 19 second-half points backed Gottfried's words up totally.

Ole Miss led 5-0 early but Alabama went on a 10-0 run to take a 10-5 lead. The Rebels never got the lead back. The largest Alabama lead in the first half was 12 points at 33-21 with 3 minutes to go before halftime. The Crimson Tide lead was its largest the first time at 62-48 with 2:15 left and matched again at game's end with the final margin of 14 points.

In a surprise move, Barnes played Clarence Sanders only six minutes after the junior guard had been one of the Rebels' hottest scorers recently. Sanders had scored in double figures in five of the Rebels' last six games, including 29 points at Tennessee one week earlier. He scored no points and shot just once against Alabama, that effort coming with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

"It was defensive-related but it was probably more ball-handling related," Barnes said as to why he didn't play Sanders more. "Not that he's turned the ball over a lot, but just making sure that we do have people in the right position. It's kinda a pick your poison type deal. You have to decide if you're going to turn it over another 18 to 20 times or get people out on the floor that have been in that situation more than other guys. It's just the last couple of games that people have pressed us and half-court trapped us. So I went with some guys that I thought could do it."

Barnes also mentioned that he started and played Trey Hampton (28 minutes, 9 points) in the game to get the talented freshman more experience.

"I'm trying to get him some playing time, trying to get him as many minutes as I can," Barnes said. "Same with (freshman) Mike Smith (13 minutes, 2 points). I thought he practiced well and I'm trying to get him some minutes also.

"I didn't want to go home again tonight with 18 to 22 turnovers," Barnes said, "and we corrected that. But with younger, inexperienced teams something else will happen. And that's what happened to us today."

Dwayne Curtis led the Rebels with 13 points, the only player in double figures.

Alabama had four players in double figures, paced by Jean Felix with 12.

Bama was 11-14 from the free throw line and 3-10 from 3-point range. Ole Miss was 3-10 from the free throw line and 9-24 from 3-point range.

Ole Miss hosts Arkansas Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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