By The Associated Press
OXFORD — As far as Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is concerned, the Southeastern Conference tournament could not come at a better time.
Ole Miss extended its winning streak to three games Saturday with a 60-51 win over Alabama, snapping a four-game winning streak by the Crimson Tide. The Rebels (18-12, 8-8) are the No. 7 seed in the tournament and will face Auburn on Thursday.
“I don’t know if we’re playing that well and I know we are painful to watch, but this team is winning games and they don’t quit,” Kennedy said. “I’m excited for them and I know they’re excited.”
Terrance Henry, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White scored 10 points apiece for the Rebels, who managed to preserve a second half lead despite hitting only 16 of 34 (47 percent), from the free-throw line.
Alabama (20-10, 9-7) dropped to the No. 5 seed in the tournament and will face South Carolina on Thursday. Trevor Releford had 12 points, while JaMychal Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“This was a big one,” said Henry, who blocked a 3-point shot with 30 seconds left that could have pulled Alabama within four points. “We’re on a three-game winning streak and we’re getting hot. It’s not always the best team but the hot team that can make it in postseason.”
Ole Miss shot 21 of 49 from the field (42.9 percent), and struggled at the free-throw line. But the Rebels proved efficient handling the ball, turning the ball over only seven times against consistent full-court pressure from Alabama.
Both clubs struggled early, combining for two field goals in the opening nine minutes, as Alabama built its biggest lead, 11-7. Nick Jacobs gave Alabama its final lead, 15-14, on a short jumper inside with 7:12 left.
Ole Miss led 28-17 at halftime on the strength of a 14-2 run in the final seven minutes of the half. Henry highlighted the outburst with seven points and an assist. Alabama managed only 1 of 15 from the field during the decisive Ole Miss outburst.
“You’ve got to be able to make shots and you’ve got to be able to take care of the basketball,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “My job is to make sure our guys are prepared to play and I didn’t do a good job getting our team to go.”
Alabama pulled within four points on two occasions in the second half, the final time at 43-39 after a 3-pointer by Releford with 10:05 left. Alabama trailed 55-50 after a layup by Green with 2:34 remaining, but followed with a turnover and four missed shots from the field.
The misfires included the blocked shot by Henry, who emerged from the post to disrupt a 3-pointer by Charles Hankerson with 30 seconds left.
“It was a tremendous play, but Terrance has that length and quickness to cover that distance,” Kennedy said. “We’re up by seven and after that block, you could sense we were going to survive whatever happened the rest of the way.”
Read more in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.