Alabama had a huge run in the first half, but gave it right back and more, and the Rebels cruised for most of the second half.
Collin Sexton returned, but did not start. The starting lineup was Dazon, Petty, Herb, Key, and Dan. I missed the start of this one, as I had a meeting that ran late. Ole Miss somehow built an 18-9 lead early in the game, but as soon as I started watching, we answered with an 18-0 run to take a 9 point lead of our own. I was feeling pretty good about things as we were forcing turnovers, playing good defense, moving the ball well offensively, and making some outside shots. Then Dazon picked up his third foul, and with other foul trouble and Collin and Donta still having injury limitations, we had to put some unusual lineups on the floor. Ole Miss answered with a big run of their own and had a 10 point lead going into the half. We cut it to 1 at the start of the second half, but poor shot selection on offense and less than stellar defense allowed the Rebels to slowly build the lead back to double-digits.
Sexton played 20 minutes, but did not play well coming off his injury. He was 2 of 13 from the floor, and was hell bent on driving to the basket and trying to force a shot in traffic. The Ole Miss defense was collapsing on him, and I wish he would look to kick back out to his teammates more instead of looking to get bailed out with a foul call. Once Ole Miss was able to control the pace of the game, there was no way we were beating them in a half-court game. To their credit they did a much better job of handling our press as the game went on.
On the positive side, Donta scored 14 points in 17 minutes and added 7 rebounds. His wrist seems to be improving and hopefully he can return to the starting lineup soon and get more minutes going forward. I thought Dazon played well overall, 10 points and 8 rebounds, but his first half foul trouble really hurt us.
I've said before that Petty seems to be the key to this team's success, and he was just one of 8 from the field, and took some terrible contested shots early in the shot clock. He seems to be a different player at home than he is on the road. I'm normally not an advocate of using multiple starting lineups, in fact I think the 9 different lineups we've used this year is a major contributing factor to our struggles, but, I would consider using him off the bench and limiting his minutes in road games at this point.
Once again, long stretches with AJ and Collin in the game at the same time killed us. We ran way too much Iso and pick n roll for Collin when he was clearly not 100%. AJ is a liability on defense and did not have a good offensive night, but still logged 23 minutes. I thought there was too much standing around watching Sexton drive into traffic on offense. We need to use him in a more traditional role in our half-court sets.
Key had 7 points and 5 rebounds, and made the only 3 point shot he took, but he also passed up some open shots when we ultimately settled for some very bad shots later in the possession. He played pretty good defense, but needs to have more confidence in his shot.
Rebounding was about even, but that's an area we should have won against this team. Key, Galin, and Donta were all guilty of giving up second chance points at times because they failed to box out.
Officiating certainly didn't cost us this game, but Collin was not getting the benefit of the calls on any contact, and Bruce Stevens now owes real estate taxes on the paint, as I'm pretty sure he's still camped out down there.
The loss wasn't unexpected, we were underdogs according to Vegas and we have a horrible track record in Oxford, but it was disappointing to play so fundamentally poor with the exception of the big run in the first half.
Up next, the SEC-Big 12 challenge as highly ranked Oklahoma comes to Tuscaloosa for a 1:15 start Saturday. The Sooners are coming off a huge win over Kansas, and this may be the biggest non-conference game in Coleman since the Gottfried era. I am excited for this one, despite the bad game last night; I expect a competitive game and think we have a chance to get a huge win. It will be televised on ESPN.