We haven't forgotten about this. We've just been so eXcItEd!1 about the new bear costume or something (read: we forgot about this). On a Saturday during which few of us expected Rebel victory, the Ole Miss roundball Rebs beat the SEC-leading Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 68-63 in the Tool Pool. With Anthony Grant leading his upstart Alabama squad to the fringes of NCAA Tournament qualification for the first time in a few seasons, a Crimson Tide victory was all but assured amongst Alabama and Ole Miss partisans alike.
But Chris Warren and Zach Graham felt differently. Jump on it for a quick recap.
Chris Warren, whose worst performance this season thus far came against the Tide in Tuscaloosa, drained 25 points. Although only 2-for-8 from beyond the arc, Warren shone - as per the usual - from the free throw line, sinking 9-of-11. He dished out five assists, brought in two steals, and performed about as well as an elite shooter (let's be frank, that's what he is) should with 39 minutes of play.
Zach Graham though really stepped up against the Tide, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds and 17 points. He was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe and, in typical Grahamian fashion, saw stats of his pop up all over the box score, with an assist, a block, and a pair of steals to accompany the rest of his numbers. He did all of this, seemingly, to make up for the statistical void Terrence Henry and Reggie Buckner were leaving out there on the floor. As a wing player, Graham's numbers were better against Alabama than Henry and Buckner's combined (9 boards and 11 points). It's great that Henry and Buckner were able to eat up fouls, but only because Graham and Warren were scoring.
This team does, as we've seen all year, possess the talent to compete with anybody in this conference. When the right guys are hot at the right time, we're a damn tough out. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened nearly enough.
Alabama played well enough, having three players (Hines, Mitchell, and Green) garner double digit scoring marks, but they had very poor production off of their bench. The Crimson Tide only had four points, a pair of rebounds, and about a billion fouls come out of their bench players, whereas Trevor Gaskins, Steadman Short, and Dundrecous Nelson were able to combine for 11 points and seven rebounds. No, those aren't eye-popping figures, but in a close game such as this one bench production is crucial.
For Alabama, this means their already slim NCAA chances just got that much slimmer. Even though there's a legit shot that, with a win tonight, Alabama will earn the SEC Regular Season Championship, many have them pegged as a bubble team right now. That's just how weak the SEC West is this season.
For Ole Miss, though, this means nothing. We'd still need to win the SEC Tournament for an NCAA berth. If you're playing along at home, that means we're NIT bound again. WAOM.
Tonight, the Rebels face the Auburn Tigers. During the first meeting between these two teams, Zach Graham dropped thirty (THIRTY!) points on Auburn, with twenty-one (TWENTY-ONE!) coming from behind the arc. Ole Miss won by thirty-one points that night by absolutely obliterating Auburn in their shiny new arena. Will the same happen tonight in the Tool Pool? If anything this team has taught us, it's that we shouldn't be in the predictin' bidness around here.
Ghost's half-assed prediction: Auburn 60 - Ole Miss 72
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