OXFORD, Miss. — If it was a play-in game to the NCAA Tournament, then maybe Alabama will get to host a first-round NIT game.
Coming off a spirited effort at Florida on Saturday, the Crimson Tide reverted to December form for most of Tuesday night, turning in a lackluster effort in an 87-83 loss to Ole Miss.
Only a late barrage of 3-point shots enabled the Tide to close a sizable gap in the closing minutes.
Alabama (19-11, 11-6 SEC) failed in its second bid for win No. 20, victimized by in part by Marshall Henderson, the SEC’s leading scorer, who scored 24 points. Jarvis Summers finished with 14, including some crucial free throws down the stretch.
Trevor Lacey led Alabama with 19 points. Jacobs added 18 points. Trevor Releford scored 16 and Rodney Cooper scored 12.
Ole Miss shot 55 percent from the floor and had only nine turnovers.
The loss could cost Alabama, which had a chance to tie Florida for first place in the league last Saturday, a top-four seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. Ole Miss, Alabama and Missouri each have six league losses with one game to play. Kentucky is 11-5 in conference play and is at Georgia on Thursday.
The top four seeds do not play until the quarterfinals
“It’s a tough loss for us. Óle Miss played really well tonight,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said.
“We dug a hole for ourselves in the first half. They got a great team effort tonight. I thought our guy battled hard all the way through. It’s good to see the guys step up and make plays.”
It was Henderson, who was involved in a couple of controversial plays, who delivered the clincher for the Rebels. After Alabama had scrapped its way back to within 12 points behind good inside play by Nick Jacobs, Henderson wiped out the Tide’s good work with an open 3-pointer from in front of the Ole Miss bench.
Moments later, Murphy Holloway completed a 3-point play to further bury the Tide. A flurry of 3-pointers in the final three minutes helped whittle the lead to 86-83 with 4.4 seconds to play but Jarvis Summers hit the back end of a two-shot free throw situation to finally seal the deal.
Alabama’s only lead was 2-0. A 9-0 run, sparked by seven points from White, who scored 17 points, put Ole Miss in control at 19-10, and with six minutes to play in the opening half the Rebels had doubled up the Tide at 28-14.
Alabama cut the lead in half on 3-pointers by Releford and Lacey, but Henderson scored the last seven points of the half as Ole Miss extended the lead to 37-25 at the half.
“Fourteen turnovers in the first half were uncharacteristic for us,” Grant said. “I thought we could have been stronger with the ball. I’m going to give Ole Miss credit. We did not do a very good job from a defensive standpoint.”
Ole Miss opened the second half with a 9-3 run to extend the lead to 18 points and leave the Tide in desperation mode the rest of the game.