Crimson Tide focuses on Rebels’ 3 senior stars

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Zachary Al-Khateeb

In spite of a discouraging loss to the Florida Gators Saturday, The University of Alabama men’s basketball team is still prepping for its game against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Miss. The Rebels are 21-8 so far this season, and boast a 15-1 home record.

The Tide will also have the additional challenge of facing an already-raucous crowd on the Rebels’ senior night. Still, Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said he was more worried about the team’s three seniors – Reginald Buckler, Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams – than the hostile atmosphere.

“You have to start with their three seniors,” Grant said. “[They] had tremendous careers. Obviously, a chance to wrap up their careers. You look at Murphy Holloway, I believe he’s the school’s all-time leading rebounder, and Buckler’s the all-time leading shot blocker in school history.”

Grant said those three players are not Ole Miss’ only threats, however. Junior guard Marshall Henderson is another huge component of the Rebels’ success this year. He leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring, shooting for 19.5 points a game.

“He’s a terrific scorer,” Grant said. “He scores in a variety of ways. He’s got a great ability to make tough shots. So all you can do is try to make it difficult on him.”

Henderson is the dynamic spearhead of an already-impressive Ole Miss offense this year. Holloway ranks 8th in the SEC with 14.8 points a game, while the Rebels’ offense leads the SEC in team scoring with 78.8 points.

Grant said the Rebels have numerous offensive weapons to score points, and feels his team needs to be ready to react defensively to whatever Ole Miss throws at them.

Junior guard Trevor Releford said his team can’t worry about what Ole Miss can do offensively, however. Rather, he and his teammates should focus more on what they’re able to do and force the Rebels to react to them.

“Defense is our thing,” Releford said. “That’s where we like to have our heads at. We’re gonna try to stop them, and then we’ve got to transition into our game.”

Grant said his team would need to improve in some aspects to stand a chance against the Rebels. Namely, his team needs to cut back on its fouls and get to the free-throw line more often.

“If you look at our last two road games, we’ve fouled 49 times to our opponents’ 21 foul (differential),” Grant said. “Free throw, we’ve attempted 29 free throws. Our opponents have attempted 63 free throws in the last two games…. So that’ll be critical for us.”

Alabama has even more intangible difficulties to face when it takes on the Rebels. If the Tide can finish out its regular season against Ole Miss and Georgia undefeated, it will have the opportunity to be seeded in the top four teams in the SEC tournament next week, allowing them two bye rounds.

Senior guard Andrew Steele said his team can’t be worried about the future. He said he and his teammates need to focus on beating the Rebels themselves rather than worry about the future.

“I don’t think we feel any pressure,” Steele said. “I think each game we come out and we try to play our best. We can’t look too far ahead. The SEC Tournament’s not till next week, and if we try to look too far ahead, we’ll lose focus in what’s right in front of us. Our next game’s Ole Miss.”

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