Guards Propel Ole Miss Past Alabama 78-66
Jan. 23, 2018
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
The victory improved the Rebels to 11-9 on the season and 4-4 in league play. Alabama fell to 13-7 (5-3 SEC).
"Our four veterans, Deandre, Breein, Terence and Markel play well then we are a pretty good basketball team," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "They did that tonight."
A rather up-and-down first half was largely defined by scoring droughts and long runs. Ole Miss jumped out to an 18-9 lead in the game's first seven minutes before Alabama fired off an 18-0 run that saw the Rebels go scoreless for nearly eight minutes of game time.
Ole Miss responded by finishing the half on a 23-4 run and snagged a 41-31 lead going into the locker room.
"I am proud of our guys for taking that punch and fighting back," Kennedy said. "We finished the half strong."
Burnett had 16 first half points on a nifty 6 of 8 shooting. The senior guard made contested jump shots and helped the Rebels spread the floor when they went to a smaller lineup.
"We said at the beginning of the year if we can get three of our five guards to play well, the core of our team, then we will be a really good team," Burnett said. "When we get four, we said no one can beat us. We got four tonight."
Alabama came into the game as the number one rated team in the SEC in defensive efficiency. The Crimson Tide are a long and athletic bunch that make driving the ball off the bounce difficult as well as finishing at the rim. Ole Miss shot 50 percent from the field on the night.
"We knew we had to move them, drive them and we made shots," Kennedy said. "It always helps when you make shots."
Alabama sliced into the Ole Miss lead quick in the second half. An 11-2 run in the first five minutes trimmed the margin to 43-42. The Rebels continued to make shots and defended well enough to swell its lead back out to five and then to 10 at 60-50. Alabama shot just 37.5 percent in the second half and were 25 of 62 for the game.
Crawford contested a jumper followed by a strip of Alabama's Daniel Giddens in the post. He dished to Davis for a bucket in transition that made it 64-50 with six minutes left gave the Rebels their largest lead of the night. The game was never in serious jeopardy after that.
"He made a huge scouting report play," Kennedy said. "He is a 22-year-old postgrad. He knew that guy was going to lift, and he gets that steal and goes down and gets that dunk. That really fueled us."
Ole Miss hasn't dropped an SEC game at home after losing three in the non-conference portion of the season. The team has played with an edge and sense of urgency in The Pavilion that it hopes it can carry on the road during the final month and a half of the season.
"Give them credit," Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. "They've been a hot team at home during SEC play."
Road wins are hard to come by for anyone with as deep as the SEC has been this year, and even with a break in SEC play this weekend for the SEC-Big 12 challenge, it won't get any easier with a road trip to Texas on Saturday.
"It's our energy and coming off fast from the jump," Burnett said. "These teams we have played on the road are great teams, but each game has come down the last possession. We are right there. We know what we have to do, and I think our team is more than capable of doing it."
The good news? Ole Miss is getting great production from what Burnett called the core of this team, and that is the guard play. The Rebels are playing their best basketball of the season.
"The best thing about it is that we have a lot of opportunities in the future," Kennedy said. "That starts Saturday. I think the Big 12/SEC Challenge is huge to see how these two leagues stack up to one another."
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