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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2007
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Alabama forward Richard Hendrix, right, battles for a rebound with Mississippi’s Dwayne Curtis (44) and Kenny Williams (50) during the first half of the Rebels’ 75-69 win in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday. Hendrix, who is an Athens High graduate, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. The No. 18th-ranked Tide fell to 18-5 overall and 5-5 in the SEC Western Division.
AP photo by Rogelio V. Solis
Alabama forward Richard Hendrix, right, battles for a rebound with Mississippi’s Dwayne Curtis (44) and Kenny Williams (50) during the first half of the Rebels’ 75-69 win in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday. Hendrix, who is an Athens High graduate, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. The No. 18th-ranked Tide fell to 18-5 overall and 5-5 in the SEC Western Division.

Ole Miss
runs by Bama

Late turnovers hurt No. 18 Tide’s chances

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

OXFORD, Miss. — In Alabama’s three-game win streak leading up to Saturday’s trip to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide made just the right amount of important plays to win.

Whether it was hitting free throws, making a layup with time running out or causing turnovers at the right moment, Alabama executed well enough to outscore LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State by a combined seven points.

On Saturday, the important plays at important times ran dry as the Rebels edged the 18th-ranked Crimson Tide 75-69.

“Late in the game, turnovers hurt us,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “We got a little bit nonchalant with passes, made a few lazy passes, and you can’t do that late in the game and they capitalized on it.”

At the 5:09 mark, Alabama held a slim 64-63 lead, but on its next four possessions the Tide turned the ball over, which Ole Miss turned into five points and a lead it didn’t give up.

“When you go on the road, you’re not playing against a team, you’re playing against all the other elements,” said Alabama’s Richard Hendrix, an Athens High graduate who had 18 points and eight rebounds.

“That’s when you have to be at your best, and you have to be at your best down the stretch of the game. We did not do that.”

Ole Miss (16-8, 5-5 SEC) presented the final domino as the Crimson Tide (18-5, 5-5 SEC) tried to knock down four straight SEC Western Division opponents.

Alabama and Ole Miss are tied for first atop the SEC West, and the Crimson Tide’s next three games are against Eastern Division powers Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Their combined conference records heading into Saturday’s games — 22-8.

“Of all the games you would think should be the easiest to win was today,” said Hendrix.

“That’s not a knock on Ole Miss, but the environment at all the other places is so much tougher to play against.”

Saturday’s game appeared to mark the end of Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried’s patience with his star players. In the past, he kept them in games despite an apparent lack of intensity, perhaps hoping they would play through their mistakes.

About midway through the first half and Ole Miss up 21-15, Gottfried pulled Hendrix, center Jermareo Davidson, guard Ronald Steele and forward Alonzo Gee in favor of Justin Tubbs, Brandon Hollinger, Yamene Coleman and Demetrius Jemison.

Alabama didn’t battle back, but Ole Miss didn’t increase its lead by much and the Tide competed harder on defense for the next four minutes.

Gottfried then put his starting five back in, and Alabama went on a quick 7-0 run to take a 32-30 lead.

At that point, it appeared Alabama’s players heard their coach’s message, and the Tide held a 38-35 lead at halftime.

For most of the second half, the Tide’s lead fluctuated around the seven-point margin for the first 10 minutes.

Then Ole Miss chipped away and took the lead with the help of Alabama’s turnovers. The Tide committed 11, while forcing Ole Miss to make five.

Mykal Riley had 16 for Alabama, while Bam Doyne led the Rebels with 17. Clarence Sanders added 16, including 11 of Ole Miss’ final 12 points.

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