No. 8 Alabama faces next SEC challenge in Ole Miss

Alabama Guard Mark Sears in action college basketball action

Alabama has played six ranked teams this season.

Its fourth and most recent victory in those games was a 78-67 win against No. 21 Mississippi State on Wednesday to open Southeastern Conference play.

Next up for the No. 8 Crimson Tide is their SEC home opener against Ole Miss on Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“Road wins are not easy to get in this league,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said, noting that two other ranked teams (No. 9 Arkansas and No. 19 Kentucky) lost their conference openers on the road the same night. “We went on the road against a Top 25 team and were able to come out with a pretty convincing win. I think it speaks to what our guys were able to do.”

The Tide (11-2, 1-0 SEC) scored the most points by a Mississippi State opponent this season, surpassing the previous high by 12 points. They had four players score in double figures — Mark Sears (20 points), Brandon Miller (19), Noah Clowney (12) and Nick Pringle (10).

Miller, who added 11 rebounds, made 5 of 10 3-pointers while Alabama made just 4 of 15 shots from deep in the first half, but improved to 8-for-17 in the second half. The Tide outscored Mississippi State 26-18 inside the paint.

“We had 19 turnovers, which obviously is not good, but I thought we were able to overcome them by how hard we played,” Oats said. “We outrebounded them (41-38). They really hang their hat on how hard they play, how well they rebound. For us to outrebound them — I thought our defense was better than theirs.

“I thought our effort was really good. We made some tough plays, got on the floor. I was proud of our guys. … Different things went different ways, but our guys stepped up.”

Another SEC team that lost at home in its conference opener was Ole Miss, which fell to No. 7 Tennessee 63-59.

The Rebels (8-5, 0-1) led by six points at halftime, but scored just 25 points in the second half.

“We led for the majority of the game,” Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said. “We played hard enough, we guarded well enough to win for sure. We competed our tail off. I think we got some great, great looks at the end around the goal and some others that just didn’t go in.”

Ole Miss’ offense was particularly stagnant down the stretch as it made just two field goals in the final five minutes.

“At the end we had great chances,” Davis said. We didn’t make plays at the end. It was a tough loss for us for sure.”

It was Ole Miss’ fifth loss in seven games. It won just two games during a five-game homestand.

“It was one of those nights and you know they’re all going to be games like that for two months,” Davis said.

This will be just the Rebels’ second true road game of the season. They lost at Memphis 68-57 on Dec. 3 and are 2-1 at a neutral site.

–Field Level Media

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