Rebels look to break away from the pack

OleMissLogoBy Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

OXFORD – There’s widely held belief that seven is a lucky number.

Only one from a group of seven tied in the SEC standings will emerge for the even luckier number – four.

Ole Miss is one in a mass of 7-7 league teams as Alabama visits Tad Smith Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tip.

The team that emerges and finishes fourth in the final league standings gets a double-bye in the conference tournament.

That advantage helped the Rebels win three games in three days last year and take the tournament title.

Alabama’s season has been marked by struggles that have called coach Anthony Grant’s job into question.

The Crimson Tide, though, defeated Ole Miss 67-64 with Trevor Releford’s late 3-point shot in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 11. That game set the Rebels on (16-11, 7-7 SEC) on what has grown to a four-game losing streak.

“We need to stop the bleeding,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy says.

Alabama (11-16, 5-9 SEC) dropped Missouri into the group of seven with an 80-73 win in Tuscaloosa last Saturday.

Junior guard Levi Randolph more than tripled his scoring average with a career-high 33 points. He was 5-for-7 from 3-point range, something he did not show against the Rebels in Tuscaloosa when he was 0-for-3 from the floor, shot twice behind the arc, and did not score in nine minutes of action.

“It was a big win for us, and Levi was a big part of that,” Grant said. “That one win was a great character win for us. We need to learn the lessons from it and understand that we’re going to get a completely different look at Ole Miss.”

Although Releford’s game-winner was big, the Tide was just 3-for-17 from the arc against Ole Miss. In beating Missouri the Tide was 10-for-21 from 3-point range and won in spite of a minus-12 rebound margin.

Ole Miss had a chance to win in Tuscaloosa while shooting just 37.5 percent and being out-rebounded by eight.

Marshall Henderson was 4-for-14 from 3-point range, and Jarvis Summers was just 2-for-9 from the floor.

Kennedy is hoping his best players play their best and that others join in with meaningful contributions. Aside from 10 points and a some key buckets from Anthony Perez, support scoring was limited in the Rebels’ 75-71 loss to Florida on Saturday.

“It’s easy to look back and live in the world of woulda, coulda, shoulda,” Kennedy said. “We can see the finish line. We know we have five more games, and how we play will determine what happens next. We were a beneficiary of the double-bye last year and were able to cut down the nets. It’s really big if you have those aspirations.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com