After blowing multiple second-half leads this season, Alabama men’s basketball was able to control the pace down the stretch on the road at Ole Miss, winning the game 103-78.
A back-and-forth battle took place in the first 12 minutes of the game, but Alabama (15-12, 7-7) finished the first half outscoring Ole Miss 21-10. The Crimson Tide led 45-31 to open the second half, led by the sophomore-freshman guard combo of Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaden Shackelford.
Ole Miss (13-14, 4-10) couldn’t stay on offense long. Alabama’s aggressive defense, led by junior forward Herbert Jones, kept the Rebels constantly walking back on defense because of charges, passes out of bounds and illegal screens. Jones was awarded the “Hard Hat Award” by coach Nate Oats. The Rebels finished with 21 turnovers, but Alabama only finished with four steals.
“[Jones] is a tough kid,” Oats said. “We try to play him as much as we can just on the defensive end, but I thought even on the offensive end he gave us some good… Before he broke his wrist, he was leading the SEC in assist to turnover ratio.”
Alabama finished off what remained of the Rebels after guard Breein Tyree fouled out with 8:50 left in the second half. From there, the game seemed out of hand, with both teams exchanging free throws and layups.
The offensive end of the floor was led by Lewis, Shackelford and junior guard John Petty Jr., who scored a combined 56 points on 60% shooting from the field.
Petty led Alabama with 21 points, making 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Shackelford scored 18, nearly eclipsing the 20-point mark for the fourth time in five games. Lewis had 17 points, 11 assists — his second-most of the season — and zero turnovers for the first time this season.
The game was chippy from start to finish. There were four technical and 49 team fouls given out over the course of the game. Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis was ejected early in the second half after being irate over a technical foul given to Tyree.
“Everybody wants rhythm,” Davis said. “And the game just never really got rhythm. Not to take anything away from Alabama, they were terrific.”
Although the Pavilion wasn’t filled in Oxford, the crowd had the stadium erupting after every call against the Rebels. After Davis’ ejection, senior guard Beetle Bolden made the four technical free throws and taunted Ole Miss fans. Bolden became the antagonist for Ole Miss fans, who jeered at him every chance they got.
In the previous six contests, the Crimson Tide had gone 2-4 with all games being decided by 6 points or fewer. Alabama led for more than 36 minutes. After a 7-point spurt from Ole Miss in the middle of the second half, Oats called a timeout to make sure that his team wouldn’t blow another lead as it had on numerous occasions.
“We’ve had that [blown leads] happen too often,” Oats said. “So, we talked about, you know, show some maturity, get some stops — there’s no way we’re losing this game.”