OXFORD, Miss. | All week long, ESPN did its best to promote Tuesday night's Alabama-Ole Miss game as a game with NCAA Tournament ramifications.
Clearly, Alabama wasn't listening.
The Crimson Tide came out with little energy, never leading and rarely looking interested until the waning minutes of an 87-83 loss at the hands of the homestanding Rebels.
"We waited until the last two minutes to try and win it," Crimson Tide forward Nick Jacobs said. "We waited too late."
The defeat dropped the Crimson Tide to 19-11 overall and 11-6 in Southeastern Conference play and denied UA a chance to clinch a two-round bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. UA could still earn a bye depending on what happens Saturday. UA hosts Georgia in the regular-season finale.
The Crimson Tide trailed 74-60 with three minutes remaining, then went on a monumental run that included six 3-pointers in the final 1:55 of play. But after Trevor Lacey's 3-point shot with 6 seconds left cut the deficit to 86-83, Ole Miss was able to ice the game on a Jarvis Summers free throw.
"I thought our guys gave effort at the end," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "I am going to give them credit. They have multiple guys who can score. That was difficult to deal with. I thought there were a couple of stretches where (Marshall) Henderson gave them some separation. You look at what they were able to do with their young guys. I give them the credit."
It took just more than eight minutes for Ole Miss to build a double-digit lead, pulling ahead 19-8 at the 11:40 mark of the first half. The Crimson Tide did halve that deficit down to seven points, 30-23, with 3:45 to go in the half, but Ole Miss went on a 7-2 run from there, taking a 37-25 halftime lead.
"I thought 14 turnovers in the first half really made a big difference," Grant said. "We were able to get that number down in the second half, but it hurt us."
The second half started with more of the same as Ole Miss seemed to put the game away with a 7-0 run.
The Rebels maintained a double-digit lead for the majority of the half. Alabama, which allowed nearly 20 points more than its per-game defensive average in previous SEC play, rarely managed to get back-to-back stops until the late going.
"It was spooky, man," Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway said of Alabama's late 3-point flurry. "They were making crazy shots."
Lacey led Alabama with 19 points, while Jacobs added a career-high 18 for the Crimson Tide. Henderson led Ole Miss with 24 points in 25 minutes, while Ladarius White dame off the bench to score 17 points for the Rebels (22-8, 11-6).
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.