GAME NOTES: The Ole Miss Rebels will celebrate Senior Night on Tuesday, as they welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide to Tad Smith Coliseum for a crucial, late SEC showdown.
As it stands, Florida seems likely to capture the SEC regular-season title at 13-3, while Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee all battle for one of the remaining three spots to earn a bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament.
Alabama controls its own destiny in terms of a first-round bye in next week's tourney, as it sits at 19-10 overall and is tied with Kentucky for second place at 11-5 in conference. The Tide have been slipping of late however, with losses in two of their last three games, most recently falling at Florida on Saturday, 64-52.
Ole Miss (21-8) is tied with Missouri in the league standings at 10-6 and still has some work to do to assure itself of a bye in the tourney. The Rebels certainly didn't help themselves on Saturday afternoon, as they lost to last- place Mississippi State, 73-67.
Alabama leads the all-time series with Ole Miss by a commanding 117-53, although the Rebel have captured 12 of the last 15 encounters at Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Crimson Tide made a statement against Florida early in the second half of their latest game, as they went on a 19-6 run to take an eight-point lead, but that advantage did not hold up as the Gators got hot down the stretch to capture the 12-point victory. Alabama had its hands full with UF's stout defense, as it made only 40 percent of its field goal attempts, and it didn't help itself much at the foul line either (4-of-10). Trevor Releford netted 12 points, while Nick Jacobs and Trevor Lacey each finished with 11. On the season, Alabama has had trouble keeping pace with other SEC teams on the scoreboard, as it ranks just ninth in points per game (63.1 ppg), but it has risen in the standings thanks a defensive effort that yields a mere 58.4 ppg, second-best in the conference. Releford is the top offensive option with 15.4 ppg, doing so behind solid shooting percentages from the field overall (.487), 3-point range (.411) and the foul line (.818). Lacey brings 11.9 ppg to the table, and both he and Releford are stellar perimeter defenders with a combined 102 steals. Rodney Cooper chips in with 10.8 ppg and a team-best 4.7 rpg.
Although it was a rivalry game on the road, the Rebels' six-point loss to a hapless Mississippi State squad at this point of the season was inexcusable for a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations. The typically high-scoring squad made less than 34 percent of its field goal attempts, including a woeful 6- of-29 from 3-point range. Murphy Holloway was spectacular in defeat, logging 22 points, 19 rebounds and five steals. Marshall Henderson finished with 16 points, but he did so on an awful afternoon from beyond the arc (3-of-18). Henderson is the SEC's top scorer, pouring in 19.5 ppg, and his 114 3-pointers rank among the nation's leaders, but lately his inefficient play has been a huge detriment to the squad, as his field goal percentage has dipped to .375. On the other hand, Holloway (14.8 ppg) has been supremely effective from the floor (.542), while his 9.8 rpg are tops in the league. Also bringing toughness to the paint is Reginald Buckner, who scores 9.6 ppg (on 60.4 percent from the field) to go with 7.6 rpg and 2.8 bpg. As a team, the Rebels are still the SEC's top scoring unit with 78.8 ppg, and despite their recent road woes, they've netted at least 82 points in four straight home tilts.
Something has got to give in a battle between a strong offense and a stingy defense. Alabama has the perimeter talent to make Henderson's struggles continue, but it doesn't have the inside presence to keep pace with Holloway and Buckner, which will make the difference for the Rebels as they defend their home floor for the last time this season.
Game Date and Time