I watched this game on ESPN3 by connecting my laptop to my television. The picture was decent, but the transition to plasma seemed to make it a bit choppy. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the sound to work, and my laptop speakers are pretty weak, so I just muted it and listened to Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink instead. That proved to be a better option anyway, even with the radio broadcast being about 1.5 seconds behind.
Despite our usual offensive struggles, we lost this game on the defensive end. We tried to play man to man early, but our defensive fundamentals were atrocious in the first half. We did not communicate on screens, or tried to go behind screens without switching, allowing Marshall Henderson to burn us early and give the Rebels their initial lead. I lost count of how many times they drove to the basket and we either double teamed the guy with the ball, but failed to rotate on the double leaving them any easy drop pass for a layup, or we would get beat and there would be no help side defense, or if there was help side defense, again the next man would fail to rotate. We compounded the problem by failing to move our feet to stay in front of the Rebels ball handlers, which led to a ton of fouls in the first half, creating a whole other set of problems.
Jimmie Taylor picked up a couple of fouls right off the bat, leaving us with nobody to protect the rim, and greatly limiting our rebounding ability. He picked up his 3rd and 4th in the first 4 minutes of the second half as well. We had 4 guys with 2 fouls by the 9 minute mark in the first half, which resulted in Dakota Slaughter getting meaningful minutes. With no size to speak of, Carl only played 8 minutes and picked up 2 fouls and frankly looked lost out there, we had to switch to a zone, further limiting our ability to get rebounds. On the rare occasion we had a good defensive possession, the Rebels would get an offensive rebound and score second chance points. Conversely, we had a 6+ minute stretch in the first half where we did not score a fg and every trip was one and done. This allowed Ole Miss to build a 17 point lead.
The team played hard in spite of their self inflicted limitations, and actually made a couple of runs. They cut the lead to 5 in the first half, primarily on the back of Shannon Hale, but Ole Miss immediately answered with an 8-0 run. Levi and Relly stepped up in the 2nd half after being mostly shut out in the first, and Bama got within 6, but once again the Rebels were able to answer and stretch the lead back to double-digits almost immediately.
When Taylor picked up his 4th foul forcing us to go small in the second half, we started pressing which was very effective and got us back into the game. Unfortunately, with the aforementioned foul trouble and the already short bench, it was not feasible to continue doing so for as long as we would have liked.
As I said above, the bright spots are Shannon Hale with a career high 27. He was very effective in the high post against the Ole Miss zone, and was more aggressive than he has been against the man, getting to the line and converting 10 of 11 free throws. If anyone would have gave him any help at all in the first half, this would have been a much different game. After having an absolutely horrible first half, scoring only 2 points and going 0 for 2 from the free throw line, Relly bounced back to his old self and finished with 16 points. He uncharacteristically only went 2 for 5 from the line and had 6 turnovers. Levi also stepped up in the 2nd half to finish with 13 points. Cooper only scored 6 points, but I felt like he had a solid game and helped us in other ways.
With the loss, the Tide will in all likelihood roll into the SEC tournament winless away from Coleman Coliseum. We only have one more theoretical chance to win on the road, and that's at Kentucky next week. Frankly, there's a better chance of monkeys flying out of my ass than this team beating UK at Rupp.
Up next, we return to sweet home Tuscaloosa where we will try to avenge an earlier 19 point loss to in-state rival auburn. Tip-off is set for 2 pm on ESPNU. It is a must win if we want to cling to any hope of clawing into the 10 seed and avoiding Wednesday games in the tournament.