Alabama uses second-half surge to outlast Ole Miss


Sports Alabama Crimson Tide guard Herbert Jones (10) drives to the basket against Mississippi Rebels guard Breein Tyree (4) during the second half of the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena.

Sports Alabama Crimson Tide guard Herbert Jones (10) drives to the basket against Mississippi Rebels guard Breein Tyree (4) during the second half of the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Photo by: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY


From Special Reports



NASHVILLE - It was a tale of two halves Thursday night, as the Ole Miss men's basketball team jumped out to a 14-point lead at the break.  


However, Alabama used second-chance points and control of the glass to outscore Ole Miss 38-19 in the second half to upset the Rebels (20-12, 10-8 SEC) 62-57 at Bridgestone Arena. 


The game featured four ties and eight lead changes, as all of the lead changes but one came in the second half. 


Both teams got off to sluggish starts, as the Ole Miss defense forced Alabama to miss seven of its first eight shots as the Rebels jumped out to a 6-2 lead. The Crimson Tide squared the game at 6-6 before the Rebels went on a 10-0 run. 


KJ Buffen started the scoring streak with an elbow jumper before Terence Davis came up with a steal. Racing down the floor, Devontae Shuler found Breein Tyree for a corner three. Stevens then worked in the paint for a bucket, and Shuler drilled a corner three to give Ole Miss a double-digit advantage, 16-6, nine minutes into the game. 


Back-to-back buckets by Shuler allowed the Rebels to double up the Crimson Tide 22-11, but Alabama brought the margin down to six before Hinson made consecutive triple tries to push the lead up to a dozen.  


When the halftime horn sounded, Ole Miss led 38-24 behind a combined 22 points from the big men. Shuler added 11 to pace the Rebels, who shot 50 percent (17 of 34) from the floor in the opening half. Ole Miss held a 14-2 advantage in points off turnovers, forcing 10 Crimson Tide turnovers in the first 20 minutes. 


In the second half, Alabama shot 41.9 percent from the field, including 50 percent from 3-point range, which helped erase the 14-point halftime disadvantage and a 16-point deficit early in the second half.  


Trailing by 12, 43-31, with 17:11 remaining in the contest, the Crimson Tide went on a big 13-0 run over the next 3:57 to take its first lead of the game, 44-43, with 13:14 left to play. 


Alabama's Tevin Mack, who scored a team-high eight in the first half and 10 of the Crimson Tide's first 14 points of the second half, got his team back in the game. Stevens answered with an NBA-range three to flip the game back in Ole Miss' favor, but Alabama grabbed the lead again on an old-fashioned three-point play. 


With the game tied at 48-48, Terence Davis hit a three for his first basket of the game to push the Rebels ahead with eight minutes to go. The contest continued to go back and forth as Alabama took the lead back before another Stevens' three made it 54-52 Ole Miss. 


With 1:34 to go and the Tide trailing by two points, Lewis Jr. drove in the lane for a layup to even the score at 57-57. Sophomore John Petty Jr.'s only basket of the night came at the most crucial part of the game with a dunk to take back the lead with exactly a minute to go. Smith would come up with a pair of huge defensive rebounds on the Rebels' final two possessions, leaving Ole Miss without a field goal down the stretch. 


Shuler scored 14 points, pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and produced a career-best two blocks to pace Ole Miss. The Rebels saw their big men have success, including 12 points from Bruce Stevens on 5 of 6 shooting. The senior forward showed his range by knocking down both of this three-point attempts, while freshman Blake Hinson made a pair of his own en route to nine points and six rebounds. KJ Buffen added eight points off the bench.  


As a team, Ole Miss forced 16 turnovers on the night, turning them into 16 points. 


Mack led all scorers in the game with 21 points, while senior Donta Hall finished with a game-best 15 rebounds to go along with seven points. Lewis Jr. added 13 points and a career-best four steals, while sophomore Galin Smith, making the start in the post, finished with career-best numbers of 11 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes of action. Graduate senior Riley Norris added nine rebounds, eight of which came on the defensive end, and a career-high five assists as the Tide controlled the boards 50-30, including a 17-6 edge in offensive rebounds which led to 23 second-chance points. 


As an added spark, Alabama's bench outscored Ole Miss' reserves 29-12. 


"I'm proud of the way our team fought back, especially in the second half, playing against a well-coached team," Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. "I want to again congratulate Ole Miss.  


"But my guys, the second half, I just asked them to turn the ball over five times or less. We were just throwing the ball all over Nashville today in the first half. But they responded. We made a couple of adjustments in the second half.  


"We inserted Tevin (Mack) back into the lineup and he responded. We went bigger tonight inside and that paid dividends for us. This team, when their backs are against the wall, they seem to respond in a positive way. We're fortunate to get this win tonight." 


With the win, Johnson improves to 6-3 in SEC Tournament contests and four consecutive quarterfinal appearances, marking the first time Alabama has achieved that feat since doing so from 2010-13. The 10th-seeded Crimson Tide now advance to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals where they will take on No. 2 seed Kentucky on Friday night. 


The Rebels, on the other hand, will now wait and hope to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. With a NET in the 30s, 20 wins and 10 SEC victories, Ole Miss has put together a strong resume that has experts penciling the Rebels in their respective brackets. The Red and Blue will officially find out on Sunday. 






· Alabama became the first team to beat Ole Miss twice this season. 


· Entering the game ranked third nationally in free throw percentage, the Rebels only attempted four free throws throughout the night. 


· Devontae Shuler scored a team-high 14 points and is averaging 16.0 ppg over the past two games. 


· Shuler also added a career-high two blocks. 


· Blake Hinson pulled down a career-high six rebounds to go along with nine points in 16 minutes.



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