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March 3, 2012OXFORD, Miss. | The University of Alabama basketball team is headed into the postseason, with the Southeastern Conference Tournament and a likely NCAA Tournament bid to follow.
But as far as heading into the postseason with momentum, that is a different story.
Alabama had its worst offensive game of the year in the season finale, a 60-51 defeat at Ole Miss.
The loss, coupled with Tennessee's win over Vanderbilt in Knoxville, Tenn., locked Alabama into the No. 5 seed in the opening round of the SEC Tournament in New Orleans. The Crimson Tide (20-10, 9-7 SEC) will play No. 12 seed South Carolina at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon in its opening-round game.
"Disappointing," was how UA coach Anthony Grant described losing a first-round tournament bye, although he had stronger words for his team's performance, and his own, in the wake of the UA loss.
The first-half output for the Crimson Tide, 17 points, was its worst offensive half of the year. Even doubling that output in the second half wasn't enough for UA.
"My job is to make sure our team is prepared," Grant said. "We were not."
Asked what was lacking in Alabama's game, Grant answered with two words.
"The margin for error is slim in the Southeastern Conference, and we made too many mistakes."
Alabama did defend well in the early stages of the game, leading 11-7 midway through the first half. But UA struggled against the Ole Miss zone defense the rest of the way and the Rebels closed the half with a 21-6 run.
"We just didn't come out as aggressive as we should have," Crimson Tide forward JaMychal Green said. "In the second half, we attacked them better, but it wasn't enough.
"It was disappointing, but all losses are disappointing."
The Crimson Tide managed to trim a 13-point deficit down to four points on three different occasions but managed time and again to thwart itself with unforced turnovers - the Rebels had a 16-0 edge in points off turnovers in the game - or missed chances for a basket or defensive rebound.
The Rebels helped keep Alabama alive at the foul line, making just 16 of 34 attempts. But even with that opening, Alabama could not take advantage.
UA shot just 34.5 percent (19 of 55) for the game and made just six of 27 shots in the first half.
"It was tough to end the regular season like that," UA forward Andrew Steele said. "There was a lot more that we could have done, but through all that, we felt like we had a chance, so maybe that is the positive from this. But we didn't come out with effort and attitude and any time you come out like that in this league, you are going to lose."
Trevor Releford led Alabama with 12 points, while Green added 11 points and 13 rebounds. Three players - Jarvis Summers, LaDarius White and Terrance Henry - each scored 10 points for Ole Miss (18-12, 8-8).
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.