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 upset the Rebels (20-12, 10-8 SEC) 62-57 at Bridgestone Arena.
Devontae 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.
Alabama (18-14, 8-10 SEC) remained on the bubble behind 21 bench points from Tevin Mack. Kira Lewis Jr. added 13 points, while Galin Smith recorded 11 of his own. Donta Hall pulled down 15 rebounds to help the Crimson Tide control the boards 50-30 and tally 23 second chance points.
Both teams got off to sluggish starts. The Ole Miss defense forced Alabama to miss seven of its first eight shots, and 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. Buffen started the stretch with an elbow jumper before Terence Davis came up with a steal. Racing down the floor, Shuler found Breein Tyree for a corner three. Stevens 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. Alabama brought the margin down to six before Hinson made consecutive triple tries to push the lead 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.
Mack got his team back in the game. After scoring a team-high eight in the first half, Mack tallied 10 of the Crimson Tide's first 14 points of the second half. A 13-0 run that included a pair of Mack threes gave Alabama its first lead since the opening bucket, 44-43. 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.
Lewis Jr. drove the lane for a scoop that tied the game at 57-57, and a John Petty putback dunk gave Alabama the lead with one minute remaining. The Crimson Tide kept the Rebels from scoring in the final possessions, knocking down free throws on the other side of the floor to hold on to the win.
The Rebels 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; he 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.