By Chris DePew
March 10, 2016
Alabama put together its best offensive performance in weeks, shooting nearly 53 percent from the field, and got 15 or more points from four players as the Crimson Tide upended Ole Miss 81-73 to advance to the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament in Nashville.
What did we learn today?: Teamwork still trumps even the brightest solo star. Ole Miss fell into a trap that has snared Bama more than once lately, relying too much on a single player to carry the scoring load. Stefan Moody may deserve to make the all-tournament team despite the Rebels’ early exit after scorching Alabama for 39 points, including eight 3-pointers. But the league’s top scorer needed 27 shot attempts to make 12 baskets, and his teammates shrunk from the spotlight, hitting just 35 percent from the floor. Only one other Rebel managed more than six points,
By contrast, Bama was forced out of its comfort zone when Retin Obasohan was benched for much of the first half after two quick fouls. The Tide was already battling a slow start and could have easily let up. Instead Justin Coleman kept things glued together at the point with five first-half assists, Riley Norris and Arthur Edwards heated up from 3-point range and Bama battled to a 40-36 halftime lead. Once Obasohan made up for a scoreless first half by rolling up a team-high 17 points, Ole Miss had no answer.
What was the best part of the game?: Seeing the offense work so beautifully. Bama doesn’t shoot better than 50 percent too often, and there have been a few nights when solid shooting was spoiled by a bushel of turnovers. But everything came together against Ole Miss. Eight of the nine players that saw action scored, and all but one of them had at least five points. Alabama had 14 assists versus only nine turnovers and hit 12 of its 24 3-point attempts, including an 8-for-13 showing in the first half. After the Tide went one-and-done in this event the last two years while scoring 56 and 61 points, Avery Johnson has created a far better impression in his first SEC tournament.
Who was the star?: Norris hit three early 3-pointers to get Bama out of its funk and never let up, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds after logging a team-high 35 minutes. Fellow sophomore Coleman added a couple of key buckets late to hold off a final Ole Miss rally and finished with 15 points.
What were the biggest concerns?: The Crimson Tide needs all the rest it can get if it hopes to make a miracle run through the tournament, and it cost itself an opportunity to salt this game away much earlier with atrocious foul shooting. For at least the second time this year, Alabama shot worse at the line (13-for-28, 46.4 percent) than it did from 2-point or 3-point range. And this one wasn’t on the usual scapegoats. Obasohan went 4-for-10 from the stripe, Norris was 2-for-5 and Edwards 2-for-4. Speaking of Obasohan, his two early fouls caused him to play more cautiously on defense, which helped contribute to Moody’s monster night. Another scoreless half from him this weekend and Alabama will find itself leaving Music City faster than you can throw spare change into a guitar case.
What’s next?: For good or for ill, Bama gets a third crack at the tournament’s No. 2 seed, the Kentucky Wildcats. Friday’s tipoff on the SEC Network is at 6 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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