No. 14 Mississippi Mauls No. 20 Alabama, 105-71
March 3, 2001
By RALPH D. RUSSO
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Jason Holmes was wearing proof of No. 14 Mississippi's improbable accomplishment, yet it still didn't seem real.
Holmes' T-shirt read "2001 Champions Western Division" with Ole Miss in the middle in big red script.
"This is an unbelievable season," the senior swingman said. "They picked us last and we're first."
The Rebels' seniors went out in style Saturday, setting a school record for victories in a season and clinching an outright SEC West title with a 105-71 rout of No. 20 Alabama on Senior Day at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Rebels, who won just five conference games last season, cut down the nets and some of their fans joined the postgame celebration on the floor.
A loss would have meant the Rebels would have to share the division title with Arkansas.
"We've come too far not to finish first. We were not going to settle for sharing," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. "We've had too good a season to settle for sharing."
Meanwhile, Alabama's late-season slump and road woes continued. The Crimson Tide (20-9, 8-8) have lost four straight and finished the regular season 1-7 on the road. The Tide have lost 23 of their last 24 road games.
An NCAA tournament bid that seemed more than likely for Alabama just two weeks ago, may now be in doubt. The Crimson Tide, who began the week with an RPI of 44, head into next week's SEC tournament in Nashville having played themselves on to the dreaded bubble.
"We need to go to Nashville and play well, and show the NCAA committee that
we are one of the top 64 teams in the country," said Terrance Meade, who
scored 15 points for the Tide.
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said he didn't want to waste time trying to predict his team's feature.
"Our job is to go win," he said.
On the strength of eight 3-pointers, a career-best five by Holmes, Ole Miss jumped out to a 49-32 halftime lead.
Flanigan said Holmes doesn't even shoot that well in practice.
"He shot like he shot it in pickup games this summer," Flanigan said.
The Rebels controlled the first half with Lockhart, their leading scorer and rebounder, playing just three minutes after picking up two early offensive fouls.
"I knew we were going to have some players step up because (Lockhart) is our first offensive option," Holmes said.
Holmes and Flanigan picked up the slack. Holmes scored 19 in the first half, surpassing his previous career-best of 17, and Flanigan had 11 of his 17.
Lockhart returned to action in the second half and the Rebels went right to him. The 255-pound center scored eight points in the first 3 1/2 minutes to help Ole Miss pull away.
With just over 16 minutes left, Holmes was fouled by Rod Grizzard shooting a 3. Grizzard went to the bench with no points and three fouls and Holmes made all three shots to give the Rebels a 64-38 lead.
Holmes, Flanigan were two of a group of Ole Miss defenders that helped put a blanket on Grizzard, who took just two shots in the first half.
Ole Miss had extended its lead to 72-41 by the time Grizzard, the SEC's leading scorer (17.4), finally scored his first points with 13:24 left.
Moments later, Grizzard hit a tough fall-away jumper, but his frustration became apparent when he was hit with a technical foul for complaining to the refs as he headed back up court.
Lockhart finished with 14 points, 12 in the second half, as the Rebels set a season-high for points.
"Everything was falling for them," Grizzard said.
Grizzard finished with 11 points and Antoine Pettway scored 19 to lead Alabama.
"I don't think anybody should write us off just yet," Grizzard said.
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