TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)—Late in the game, Alabama kept getting sent back to the scene of some of its biggest troubles: The free throw line.
The Crimson Tide had no problems this time.
Mykal Riley scored 22 points and Alabama, a 59-percent foul shooting team, made 10-of-12 from the line over the final 2:46 to hold on for a 76-67 win over Mississippi Wednesday night.
“It gives our team some confidence,” Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. “You want your players to feel confident that they can do well at the foul line. It was good to see that happen.”
Besides the accuracy from the line, Alabama (14-11, 3-7 Southeastern Conference) also largely contained Ole Miss stars Dwayne Curtis and Chris Warren, who both finished the game with four fouls and never got into a rhythm offensively.
The Rebels (17-6, 3-6) cut a 14-point deficit down to four in the final minutes but still fell to 0-5 in SEC road games. Zach Graham hit two free throws and Warren pulled up for a quick 3-pointer to make it 61-57 with 2:57 to play.
Then, Alabama started going to the line repeatedly and benefited from an intentional foul call and a technical against Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy for protesting an out-of-bounds call in the final minutes.
“I got out of the (coaching) box, the old dreaded call,” Kennedy said, smiling. “They reversed the call. I get a technical for being right.”
Riley made five of the Tide’s six 3-pointers, including one with a second on the shot clock with 1:20 to play.
“We felt real comfortable after I made that 3,” he said. “I thought it really put the game away.”
If that didn’t do it, the clincher was Brandon Hollinger’s fast-break layup with 55 seconds left to make it 72-62. That was the Tide’s only other basket in the decisive stretch run.
Alonzo Gee had 12 points for Alabama while Richard Hendrix, Hollinger and Mikhail Torrance had 10 apiece. Hendrix, who missed the Tide’s loss at Kentucky with a stomach virus, also had eight rebounds and five blocked shots but said he wore down as the game went on.
“I was not my usual self,” he said. “I was about a step slow.”
Warren finished with 13 points but made just 5-of-19 shots despite a pair of late 3s. The freshman was coming off a career-high 26-point performance against Arkansas but was stifled by Hollinger with plenty of help from teammates.
Kennedy said he told his young star to get used to being a focal point for opposing defenses.
“The reality is now people know who you are. The days of mystery are over. You’re going to have to make some adjustments. You are a marked man,” he said he told Warren.
Curtis struggled even more, managing just three points and seven boards and playing just 17 minutes because of foul trouble. He didn’t score until making a free throw with 3:48 left. Both came in averaging 15-plus points.
“Obviously it changes the way we do things offensively when he’s not in the game,” Kennedy said. “He picked up some early fouls and we had to try some different things. We’re not shooting the ball well, especially on the road.
“Without Dwayne at the basket, it’s difficult to manufacture points. It puts a lot of pressure on you defensively.”
David Huertas also had 13 points and Graham finished with 10.
Both teams shot just 36.5 percent, but Alabama made 24-of-32 free throws. Ole Miss hit just 13 in 22 attempts.
“We’ve been struggling on free throws the whole year,” Gee said. “We put a lot time in on free throws and it’s paying off.”
The Rebels had some heated-looking huddles late in the game, and Kennedy said he encouraged the extra emotion.
“We were trying to find a way to get back into the game,” he said. “We weren’t fighting Alabama very good, so I figured we might as well fight ourselves. Let’s fight somebody.”
Did it work? “We made a couple of shots,” Kennedy said.
The Tide had an 11-point lead trimmed to 32-28 by halftime. Graham and Kenny Williams both scored off offensive rebounds in the final 28 seconds for Ole Miss. It was still the Rebels’ second fewest first-half points of the season for a team ranked second in the SEC averaging 82 points a game.
Ole Miss just topped its season low of 66 points from the previous game against Presbyterian.