Through its first six games, Ole Miss led the nation in scoring defense. But on Tuesday the Rebels were picked apart by Alabama in Tuscaloosa, 82-64.
The opening SEC contest for Ole Miss (5-2, 0-1 SEC) didn’t start out well for the Rebels as the Crimson Tide (6-3, 1-0 SEC) built a quick 8-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. Ole Miss did close the gap to only 3 points, 23-20, with 7:40 left in the first half, but the game never got tighter than that as Alabama seemingly did what it wanted on offense.
Outside shooting did not help the cause as Ole Miss shot only 7.7 percent (1 of 13) from three point range. Additionally, the team shot 54 percent (19 of 35) from the free throw line. When it comes down to it, both teams had the same number of shots from the field (65), but the Rebels had a +11 in free throw chances.
A very poor night shooting the basketball coupled with starting guards Devontae Shuler, Luis Rodriguez and Austin Crowley combining for only ten points was too much for the defense to overcome.
The brightest spot for Ole Miss was transfer forward Romello White who led the team with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Junior forward KJ Buffen added 15 points and eight rebounds, while transfer guard Jarkel Joiner posted 12 points and three rebounds.
It is difficult to open conference play on the road, but even moreso this season as the Rebels had the latest start to its season of any Power 5 conference men’s basketball program. Tuesday’s double digit loss should serve as a massive wake up call for a team who has a revamped roster and is learning how to play together. SEC play is here, and teams are going to play confident basketball against an Ole Miss program who almost finished last in the league in 2019-2020.
The Rebels have an opportunity to get back on track prior to the resumption of SEC play when it faces off against Wichita State (4-2) on Saturday, Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. in Oxford. The then ranked No. 24 Shockers beat Ole Miss by 20 points last season 74-54 in Wichita, Kan.