The Rebels, who improved to 19-9 overall and 5-9 in Southeastern Conference play, appeared to have a comfortable 81-66 lead with just over two minutes to go. But the Tide kicked things up a notch at that point, and almost rolled to a surprising win.
Rico Pickett was good on a 3-pointer, the first of four treys by the Crimson Tide in the game's final 2:03, to cut the UM lead to 81-69. Still nobody could have guessed what was in store from that point on. The final 17 seconds left everyone wondering "what happened?"
Dwayne Curtis sank two free throws to give the Rebels a 91-86 lead with those 17 ticks remaining. The Tide's Demetrius Jemison then scored on a jumper with 10 seconds left to cut the Rebel lead to 91-88.
On the inbounds play, Senario Hillman stole the basketball and shot a 3-pointer, which appeared to be rushed, and missed. Curtis got the rebound with four seconds to go, and that's when an ending that wasn't, then was, occurred.
Curtis stood there with the basketball under the Alabama basket and was intentionally fouled by the Crimson Tide; admittedly so by UA head coach Mark Gottfried who said his team was trying to get called for a foul. Not only was no intentional foul called against the Tide, the clock stopped with 2.5 seconds to go, but there was no official's whistle, and never a buzzer.
The officials went to the scorer's table, watched the replay, and ruled the game was officially over, much to the chagrin of the Alabama coaches and players. The clock still showed 2.5 seconds.
The officials said this afterward:
"There was a game clock malfunction. By rule, we are required to go to the television monitor. On the replay, we determined that time had expired, because the clock had stopped at 2.5 seconds. We utilized all video and timing devices we had available to us."
"Our players fought hard, and I've already watched the tape," Crimson Tide head coach Mark Gottfried said. "We fouled them with four and a half seconds to go, and we don't get to play the last four and a half seconds. A lot of things can happen in a game. The probability is that Ole Miss would still win. We understand that. But you never know. Obviously we were in a foul mode.
"We were there," he continued. "We got the steal. We had a shot. Missed it. Rebound. Four and a half seconds. Wrap him up. I'm still a little confused as to why we didn't get to play the last four and a half seconds."
"The clock went to 2.5 and I'm looking at the officials," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. I haven't seen them stop play. Nobody moved. So I'm kinda confused. I don't know what to tell you other than I thought we (Curtis) would be at the foul line. They said no, nobody called a foul. Ballgame."
Curtis said he was just waiting on something to happen at that point.
"I was going to hold the ball until I saw him signal the game was over," Curtis said.
Did he get fouled?
"He was fouling me ‘cause they (Crimson Tide) were telling him to foul me," Curtis said.
"This was a hard one for our players," Gottfried said. "They (Ole Miss) certainly did a great job and did enough things to win. I don't ever want it to sound like I'm crying over that. But the end of the game was a little bit hard to grasp when you ask your players to do certain things with a minute and a half or two minutes to go, how you're going to play the game out, whether it's penetrating, getting a quick shot, pressing, trying to get a steal, foul, all the things coaches work on. So anyway that was a little frustrating for me."
So what did the officials tell Gottfried?
"They said the clock stopped with 2.5 and it should have kept running out," he said. "So my question is why isn't there a foul? It was an obvious foul. We wrapped the guy up. Outside of throwing him on the ground, I mean, we did what we were supposed to do. It was as if they decided the game was just going to play on out, let the clock run out."
That wasn't the only aspect of the game, but it is the one that will be remembered. Ole Miss was down 36-31 with two and a half minutes left in the first half. But it was at that point Kennedy said his team made a move. The game was tied 38-38 at halftime. The Rebels opened up the second half with a 7-0 run to lead 45-38.
Ole Miss kept expanding the lead until it reached double digits for the first time on a David Huertas 3-pointer halfway through the second half for a 64-52 lead. Huertas had 18 points and nine rebounds.
"I thought we played tremendous from about the three minute mark of the first half until about the three minute mark of the second half," Kennedy said.
Huertas said it was just one of those special days.
"My teammates found me wide open three or four times," said Huertas, who was 4-for-8 from 3-point range. "I just shot it and knocked it down."
In addition to Huertas' 18, Chris Warren had 25 and Curtis 24. Kenny Williams had 13.
Alabama (15-14, 4-10) had five players in double figures, led by Mykal Riley with 20.
Gottfried said again it wasn't all about the final couple of minutes, or even the last few seconds – that were or never were.
"First of all congratulations to Ole Miss," he said. "I thought in the second half they executed. They got the ball around the basket. We did not defend them around the basket nearly well enough. The story of the game was their good play and execution for the majority of the second half. They earned the win. Our team played hard. We don't have a very glamorous record. But our kids have never quit. They didn't today. They played right to the……well, not to the buzzer. But they played until the referees decided the game was over."
Ole Miss hosts Arkansas Tuesday at 8 p.m. in a nationally-televised game on ESPN.
Alabama is at LSU Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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