Rebels lose to Alabama 69-58

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama was 0-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half, but in the end it was the trey that propelled the Crimson Tide to a 69-58 victory over Ole Miss Wednesday night.

Alabama was 6-of-9 from three-point range in the second half and when they needed a big basket, it was from 3-point land that they got it.

After Clarence Sanders scored on a layup to tie the game 42-42, Brandon Hollinger scored on a 3-point basket from the top of the key for a 45-42 UA lead with 8:06 to go.

When the Rebels closed it to 49-46 on a Dwayne Curtis putback, it was a 3-pointer by Alonzo Gee that gave the Tide a 52-46 advantage with 5:43 left.

And after Ole Miss got to within three again at 56-53 on a 10-foot jumper by Bam Doyne, a left-corner trey by Mykal Riley (who led UA with 13 points) with 1:22 remaining put the home team up 59-53. As it turned out, that was enough points for Alabama to move to 20-9 overall and 7-8 in SEC play.

"It was a good win," said the Tide's Richard Hendrix, with 12 points one of four Alabama players in double figures. "Coming off two straight losses (to Tennessee and Auburn), we had to step up. We had guys do that, and we played well."

Alabama won the game without its all-star guard Ronald Steele who is injured. It was also senior night as lone senior Jermareo Davidson was another Bama player in double figures, also with 12 points.

Tide head coach Mark Gottfried said his players realized they'd be without its top assists leader in Steele and did their best to make up for it.

"They kind of turned it loose tonight without him," Gottfried said. "His teammates knew they had to step it up, and they did."

It was somewhat the opposite feeling for Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, who said he has not liked what he's seen from his team in its last two games, road losses here and at South Carolina last Saturday.

"They were 0-for-11 from 3-point range at halftime and we're only up a point (24-23)," he said. "We should have been up nine or ten points at that point. But we allowed 16 offensive rebounds (in the first half), and to me that speaks to your approach. We had a lot on the line as a lot of teams do this time of year. I'm very, very disappointed that Alabama was a little quicker to the ball than we were. They came up with about 80 percent of the balls that were 50-50. They attacked us as evident by the fact that they shoot 21 free throws and we shoot six. We became very, very dependent on perimeter play, and tonight it wasn't there."

His players were equally disappointed.

"The biggest thing was they played like they wanted it more than us," said senior guard Todd Abernethy. "They had 16 offensive rebounds in the first half. We take all the blame for that, myself and the other starters. Our big men had them boxed out a lot of times. Some of their guys would come in and cut around us. They took advantage of that and we were not able to get in a rhythm offensively."

Junior center Dwayne Curtis, with an injured big toe that hampered his movement and ability, ended the night with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He said the Rebels had a shot in this one, but they simply couldn't respond when needed.

"It could have been our night," he said. "We had opportunities but were not able to get it done. We gave them too many second chance rebounds."

That was the tone of the first half, and the Rebels actually evened things up some in the numbers department in the second half. But the Tide stepped up late and made big shots. The Rebels admitted they did not.

"We turned down some open looks (in the second half)," Abernethy said. "It's hard when Clarence (Sanders with 18 points to lead the Rebs) is the only one scoring. We passed up some shots; they took some and made them."

Ole Miss fell to 18-11 and 7-8. This weekend it all comes down to Ole Miss hosting 7-8 Auburn, and 7-8 Mississippi State hosting Alabama.

The four-way tie will end with two co-champs in the SEC West for 2007.

"The seniors (Doyne, Sanders, Abernethy) will be ready," Abernethy said. "It's our last game at home, and we can win a piece of the West. We'll definitely be ready."

Ole Miss and Auburn will tip off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tad Smith Coliseum.

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