No. 20 Ole Miss another tough test for Alabama
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Alabama nearly upset Tennessee on the road on Saturday.
Now it will try to upset a different ranked team -- No. 20 Ole Miss -- at home Tuesday night.
The Crimson Tide (11-6, 2-3) led the Volunteers, who moved up from No. 3 to No. 1 in the AP poll Monday, by two points with less than four minutes remaining before falling 71-68. They trailed by 12 points at halftime, but scored the first 13 points of the second half and the game went to the wire.
"It was a great college basketball game that could have gone either way," Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. "They came out and jumped on us early, but we fought hard, didn't complain.
"We just put our heads down and kept working. Fortunately, we were able to play some of our better basketball in the second half. We got some stops, we were able to run in transition and just kept battling."
Alabama held Tennessee -- the SEC leader in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting percentage -- to just 43.8 percent from the floor and 25 percent (3-of-12) on 3-pointers.
The Tide, who outrebounded Tennessee 41-36, has outrebounded all but one opponent this season.
Sophomore guard John Petty led the Alabama offense, scoring 30 points while making 11-of-18 field goals and 6-of-9 3-pointers.
"John was just incredible in the second half," Johnson said. "He got to his spots and converted. It was just a lot of fun to watch."
The Rebels (14-3, 4-1) lost their first game as a ranked team in six years when they fell at home to LSU (83-69) last Tuesday, but they bounced back with a home win against Arkansas (84-67) on Saturday.
The split kept them in the rankings, as they slipped merely two spots Monday.
First-year coach Kermit Davis was pleased with how his team responded to the loss to LSU, which ended the Rebels' 10-game winning streak and helped push the Tigers back into the rankings at No. 25 on Monday.
"We've had two top-15 wins, great wins," Davis said of victories against Auburn and Mississippi State, "but that was probably the best win of the year because of the response after you lose your first league game."
Still, Davis wasn't totally satisfied with the performance.
"There was some growth, but we have got to do better coming out of the half," he said. "The LSU game (the deficit) went from one to nine in 1:40 and it just stayed that way.
"When (Arkansas) cut it to six, that is when our team started playing so much harder."
D.C. Davis started in place of point guard Devontae Shuler and had seven points and four assists in 27 minutes. Shuler came off the bench as he continues to play through a foot injury and finished with three points (on 1-for-6 shooting) and three assists in 25 minutes.
"Devontae can easily start at Alabama," Kermit Davis said. "He's still our point guard. I just thought D.C. deserved (to start). I just had a feeling because of how hard he's worked in practice. It's nothing Devontae didn't do. He's still our point guard."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 21, 2019