February 12, 2011 11:20:00 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama men''s basketball team responded following a short turnaround from a difficult road loss by racing to a big lead, drilling 3-pointers and scoring on quick drives to the basket.
Tony Mitchell scored 20 points and the Crimson Tide sprinted to a 20-point halftime lead before holding off the University of Mississippi''s comeback attempt in a 74-64 victory Saturday.
"We had so much energy because we were ready to get back on the floor after the loss (Thursday night) to Vanderbilt," said Alabama point guard Trevor Releford, who had 14 points and seven assists. "I think our energy just took over."
Sustaining it was a little harder, two days after a late-night 81-77 loss to the No. 23 Commodores that wasn''t decided until the final seconds. That ended a five-game win streak that vaulted Alabama to the top of the Southeastern Conference''s Western Division.
The CrimsonTide (16-8, 8-2 SEC) gave up most of a 23-point lead in the second half but held off the Rebels (16-9, 4-6) to end their three-game SEC winning streak.
Alabama made only six field goals in the second half after building a 47-27 halftime cushion but the league''s top defensive team limited Ole Miss to 36 percent shooting.
Chris Warren, the SEC''s No. 2 scorer, didn''t make a field goal until his 3-pointer from the left corner with 1 minute, 16 seconds left for the Rebels.
"(Alabama) was aware of where Chris was at all times," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "We knew they were going to be very aggressive."
JaMychal Green had 15 points, including Alabama''s first six, and added six blocked shots and three steals for the Tide. Releford also had three of Alabama''s 10 steals. Mitchell came off the bench in what coach Anthony Grant called a "coach''s decision" to make 8 of 13 shots and reach 20 points for the fourth consecutive game.
"It doesn''t matter if I come off the bench or start, I''m going to come out and give it all I''ve got," Mitchell said. "I''m just helping out my team any way I can."
Warren hit only 2 of 10 baskets but the nation''s leading free throw shooter made 10 of 12 for the line to finish with 15 points.
"(Alabama''s defense) was aggressive," Warren said. "They''re a real scrappy team."
Zach Graham added 13 points while Dundrecous Nelson hit three second-half 3-pointers to help spark the aborted rally and scored 11.
"Either they were going to come out flat from the loss Thursday or they were going to come out with something to prove," the Rebels'' Terrance Henry said. "They came out with something to prove."
Warren moved past Carlos Clark''s 1,822 points for third in school history despite the rough shooting night.
Alabama, which ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense, made it hard for him.
"That''s what we do," Releford said. "We''re a defensive team, the best defensive team in the SEC. Coach told us to come out there and sell out so that''s what we had to do for 40 minutes."
Nelson and Reginald Buckner, who was held to four points, both fouled out.
Ole Miss still scared the sellout crowd of 15,383. Warren hit four straight from the line to cut Alabama''s lead to 65-59 with 2:22 left.
Alabama''s Senario Hillman then drove for his only basket, drew a foul and hit the free throw. He made another from the line with 1:45 left to push it back to double digits. Green, Hillman and Releford combined to make 5 of 6 free throws after that.
The Rebels had cut the big deficit to 56-47 with a 15-1 run just eight minutes into the second half, punctuated by back-to-back 3s from Nelson and Nick Williams.
Alabama had only two field goals in the half before Green and Mitchell finally responded with consecutive putbacks. The Tide was 6-of-17 shooting after hitting 53 percent before halftime.
"We were able to get out in transition and build the lead," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "Our energy wasn''t quite what we needed it to be in the second half. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers and gave them some opportunities at the other end."
Alabama, which has won 11 of its last 13 games, didn''t endure the same fate as last season when the Rebels overcame a 23-deficit to beat the Crimson Tide.
"JaMychal brought it up at the half that we were in the same situation last year and that we needed to come out with the same energy that we did in the first half," Grant said.
Mitchell had 15 points in just 10 minutes to pace Alabama to the big halftime lead, including a long jumper with 20 seconds left.
Alabama had made 5 of 29 3-pointers its previous two games, but was 5 of 9 at the half.
"When you knock down shots, you''d be surprised how much it energizes you," Kennedy said.