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February 5, 2012

Alabama edges Ole Miss in double overtime

TUSCALOOSA | There were times Saturday night when the University of Alabama basketball team couldn't find the basket. There were times when it couldn't corral a loose ball rolling along the floor. There were times when the Crimson Tide couldn't get out of its own way.

But when it had to find something good, Andrew Steele found it.

Steele, not the Crimson Tide's usual end-game offensive option, found himself with the game's biggest shot,, a mid-range jumper with the shot clock running down and his tam clinging to a one-point lead in a second overtime - and he made it, providing the impetus for a 69-67 UA win. The victory - Alabama's second in a row - pulled the Crimson Tide back to the .500 mark (4-4) in league play.

"Trevor (Releford) did a great job of penetrating the defense and even though he lost the ball, I was in a good spot," Steele said. "I looked up at the shot clock when I caught it and I think it was at three (seconds) so I knew I had to get a shot up."

"He made a play when they needed it, and that's what separates winning from misery," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

"That was all about heart," Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant said.

It wasn't the only big play, offensively or defensively, in the taut game. The Crimson Tide appeared to be cooked at the end of the first overtime when an Ole Miss in-bounds pass with four seconds remaining and the score tied at 61-61, found Jarvis Summers streaking rimward with no defender in his way.

"It looked like he had an open path, but Trevor (Releford) was trailing him and reached in and got a hand on the ball," Grant said.

With that reprieve, Alabama was able to take the win in the second overtime.

There were times, especially in the first half, when it looked as if the last things Alabama would be worried about were game-winning situations. The Crimson Tide struggled offensively, especially after JaMychal Green's early foul trouble, and trailed by as many as 10 points, 31-21, just before halftime.

"At the half, they were shooting 56 percent from the field. We had a level of frustration and needed to be a little more patient offensively. But we needed to defend better. We did that in the second half, and I thought as the overtimes went on, we got stronger."

Alabama gradually overcame a seven-point halftime deficit, and seemed on the verge of winning in regulation with a three-point lead and the ball with just over a minute remaining. But Justin Henry tied the game with a 3-point play with 57 seconds remaning and a potential game-winner by UA's Levi Randolph rimmed out at the buzzer.

"I thought both teams played very hard," Kennedy said. "It was not always well-executed, but it was one of those games where you hate to take an 'L' because of how hard the two teams we played."

Mobile native Nick Williams led the Rebels (14-8, 4-4) - who used just seven players in the 48-minute contest - with 19 points.

Green led Alabama with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Tony Mitchell, who was held out of the Crimson Tide starting lineup for the first time this season, had 14 points in 31 minutes off the bench. Grant said the decision not to start Mitchell was based "strictly on this week's practice."

Charles Hankerson added 10 points off the bench for UA.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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