GAME NOTES: The Ole Miss Rebels begin a two-game road trip on Tuesday evening when they visit Coleman Coliseum for an SEC showdown with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Ole Miss recorded an impressive 91-88 home victory over Missouri on Saturday afternoon to improve to 7-3 in the SEC, good for third place in the league standings behind only Florida and Kentucky. The Rebels are a stellar 16-7 overall, which includes a 4-4 mark on the road, although they have lost each of their last two away games by a combined 32 points.
Meanwhile, Alabama has faded fast in the SEC picture with losses in four straight. The Tide most recently dropped a 78-69 decision at Florida on Saturday to fall to 9-14 overall and 3-7 in the league, but the good news for this contest is that all of their wins this season have come at Coleman Coliseum (9-4).
Alabama has a firm handle on the all-time series with Ole Miss, 117-54, although the Rebels won the most recent meeting on March 5, 2013, 87-83.
The Rebels built what appeared to be a comfortable 15-point halftime lead in their most recent game, and while they saw Missouri make it close down the stretch with a strong second half, they were able to hold on for the three- point win. The team shot 50 percent from the field, including a lofty 14-of-29 from 3-point range, and was led by Marshall Henderson, who scored 29 points on 8-of-15 from beyond the arc to go with five assists. Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White contributed 16 points apiece, Anthony Perez scored 11 and Sebastian Saiz collected 10 rebounds.
Ole Miss has found success this season behind its impressive offensive attack, which pours in 77.5 ppg on 43 percent from the field, which has been strong enough to support the SEC's worst scoring defense (72.3 ppg). Henderson scores 19.6 ppg to lead the way, and while he shoots only 37.5 percent from the field overall, he's the league's most prolific 3-point shooter with 89 long-range buckets. Summers puts up 17.4 ppg and has been much more efficient than his backcourt mate, shooting 50.4 percent from the field (including 50 percent from beyond the arc). Aaron Jones isn't much for scoring (6.7 ppg) but he's a positive presence in the paint with 7.1 rpg and 2.3 bpg.
The Tide played one of their best halves of the season in the opening stanza at Florida over the weekend, as they went into intermission tied up against the No. 3 team in the nation, but after they took a brief two-point lead early in the second half, the Gators pulled away thanks to a 25-8 run. The Tide was able to shoot an impressive 55 percent from the field against one of the best defenses in the country, but they couldn't outpace UF, which made good on 62 percent of its shots overall. Trevor Releford was outstanding in spite of defeat, shooting 7-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and draining all seven of his foul shots for 25 points, but no one else finished in double figures.
Despite its lackluster record, Alabama has still outpaced its opponents on the season by shooting 44.5 percent from the field for 68.8 ppg, while allowing 68.1 ppg on just 42.8 percent shooting. Releford has established himself as one of the most efficient guards in the nation, scoring 18.3 ppg on outstanding percentages from the field (.502), 3-point range (.395) and the free-throw line (.907). He's also an elite perimeter defender with more than two steals per game. Retin Obasohan (11.2 ppg) plays great defense as well with 2.1 spg and 1.2 bpg, while Levi Randolph, Nick Jacobs and Rodney Cooper all pour in between 8.0 and 8.5 ppg.
Although Ole Miss has performed better than Alabama of late, the playing field will be leveled in Tuscaloosa. The game will likely go down to the wire, but the Rebels ultimately have a more trustworthy arsenal of offensive weapons to rely on in crunch time.
Game Date and Time