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NASHVILLE – Alabama head coach Avery Johnson knew his team had to shoot the ball well to hold off Ole Miss and advance into Friday’s quarterfinal game against second-seeded Kentucky.
The Tide (18-13) did just that in the first 20 minutes, and throughout the entire second half, thanks in part to the solid play of Retin Obasohan, who scored all of his 17 points in the final 20 minutes to propel Alabama to an 81-73 victory over the Rebels (20-12) in Thursday night’s second round game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Afterwards, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said he felt both teams played hard:
The Crimson Tide took control when Obasohan got a hot hand, scoring all of his team’s seven points during a short 7-0 spurt to build a 50-42 lead with 16:17 to go. Then, Obasohan’s two free throws and five straight points from Justin Coleman gave Alabama some room to breathe with a 66-52 lead.
Ole Miss rallied, however, and sliced its deficit to 68-62 off a 3 by senior guard Stefan Moody, but Norris’ putback off Coleman’s missed jumper pushed the Rebels’ deficit back up to eight.
Going into the game, Johnson didn’t want his players to get frustrated if Stefan Moody made a lot of shots. He just wanted them to keep playing. “If he makes three 3s from half-court, we are not going to drop our heads,” Johnson told his team after each timeout. “He does it to everybody.”
And, indeed, Moody did it to Alabama, hitting eight shots from long-range. He wasn’t fazed by the double teams the Crimson Tide threw his way each time he touched the basketball.
The Rebels started the game hot, making their first six shots to jump out to an early 14-8 lead. But back-to-back 3s from Norris and Coleman tied the game at 14-all and from there, Alabama kept up with the hot shooting of Moody, who had 17 points in the first half while shooting 6-of-13 from the field.
From start to finish, Moody was a one-man band for the Rebels; he just didn’t get quite enough help to propel Ole Miss into the next round. Moody finished with a game-high 39 points on 12-of-27 shooting.
Moody fouled out with 30 seconds left in the game and promptly received a handshake from Obasohan, a standing ovation, and chants of “Moody” from the crowd of supporters of the different programs in the tournament. Even the Mississippi State fans in the crowd stood in support of the Rebels’ star.
“I wasn’t even paying attention to it at first,” Moody answered when asked about the ovation. “I was trying to stay on the court still.”
The Crimson Tide took its biggest lead of the first half (26-19) off a layup by Shannon Hale, who went quiet in the first 20 minutes with only five points. Obasohan, Alabama’s leading scorer, went scoreless in the opening period, but with 3s from Norris, Edwards, and Austin, the Crimson Tide was able to take a 40-36 lead into the locker room.
Edwards led the team with 10 first-half points, and Alabama went 8-of-13 from the 3-point line, before making four more in the second half.
The Rebels shot 11-of-34 from beyond the arc for the night, with 8 of those made 3-pointers coming from Moody, alone. But in the end, Moody and the Rebels walked into their locker room wondering if they will play another game.
Ole Miss fans sure hope they get the opportunity to see Stefan Moody play in a Rebels uniform again. They’ll have to wait and see if the Rebels are awarded a berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.