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'Bama blown out in Oxford for third straight year

1/22/2003

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi has rarely played better in
recent years than when Alabama comes to town -- and the Crimson Tide
have rarely played worse.

Aaron Harper scored a career-high 28 points to lead Mississippi
to a 76-57 victory over Alabama (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) on Tuesday night, the third
straight season the Crimson Tide has been blown out at Tad Smith
Coliseum.

"Before you ask, I can't explain it,'' Ole Miss coach Rod
Barnes said of his team's homecourt success against the Tide.
"This is a great win to beat a team that was No. 1 in the
country.''

Alabama (12-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) couldn't overcome
off nights by both of its stars. Reigning SEC player of the year
Erwin Dudley scored 13 points, and leading scorer Maurice Williams
had another poor showing in his home state with nine points on
4-of-11 shooting.

Justin Reed and David Sanders had 15 points each to complement
Harper's 9-for-15 shooting for Ole Miss (11-4, 2-2).

"Coach has been calling my number and I've been answering the
call,'' Harper said.

The Crimson Tide fell to 0-3 away from home in the SEC and lost
its fifth straight at Tad Smith, including embarrassing losses the
previous two seasons by margins of 34 and 28. It has lost three of
four overall.

"I wish I had some magic formula I could just whip out, but
sometimes you find yourself in a place you don't want to be,''
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "That's where we are right
now.''

When the Crimson Tide fell behind 10-2 and went four minutes
without a basket it looked again like the 3-hour drive from
Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Oxford had somehow left them sluggish.

But Williams led a 17-2 run with a 3, a layup and a floater in
the lane, and it looked like the Tide would finally shake off the
Tad Smith malaise.

It turned out to be the only highlights for the Jackson native
and former state high school player of the year.

Last season's SEC freshman of the year managed just 12 points
and 4-for-15 shooting in losses at Mississippi and Mississippi
State last year.

It didn't get any better Tuesday night for Williams, starting
with the first possession when he had his dribble stolen by
Sanders. Williams' first shot drew nothing but air, and the 84
percent free-throw shooter even missed both attempts from the line.

Williams declined to speak with reporters after the game because
he was so upset with his performance, an Alabama spokeswoman said.

Ole Miss had the final spurt of the first half, an 11-4 run
capped by Harper's leaner that bounced through with about a second
left and gave Ole Miss a 32-26 lead. Harper had 16 in the half.

Reed picked up his third foul less than two minutes into the
second half and went to the bench. But instead of slowing down, the
Rebels pulled away.

Right after Reed took a seat, the Rebels ripped off an 8-2 run,
including back-to-back 3-pointers by Kendrick Fox and Sanders that
made it 45-33.

"We played them well the first half. We were only down six,''
Dudley said. "They made some big shots. That's a good team. When
you're a good team you're supposed to knock down shots, especially
at home.''

Harper finished off the Crimson Tide with consecutive 3-pointers
that made it 62-47 with 6:50 left. He was 4-for-6 from 3-point
range and had a team-high nine rebounds.

Ole Miss has won two straight against ranked SEC opponents.

"We're back in the race,'' Harper said.