By Gregg Ellis
Alabama's Coleman Coliseum hasn't been a friendly travel destination for Ole Miss.
It's a trend the No. 21-ranked Rebels hope to change at 7 p.m. today.
No. 15 Alabama, 13-2, 2-1, has won 15 of the last 17 games at home against Ole Miss. The Rebels last won in Tuscaloosa in 1998, staking a 74-63 victory en route to their second consecutive Western Division championship.
Both teams enter tonight's Jefferson-Pilot matchup tied for first in the division with 2-1 marks. The Crimson Tide is also enjoying an 11-game winning streak at home.
"Our team is not thinking about the conference race at this point," said UM coach Rod Barnes, whose squad is 14-2 overall. "We are making a big deal out of this because it is our next game. That's the approach we have taken all season. It's just one game at time."
The Rebels' two SEC wins have come on the road at Vanderbilt and Arkansas. This past Saturday, Ole Miss dropped a 70-66 setback in its home opener to Georgia.
"That was a really tough game," Barnes said. "Georgia hung in and right there in the end got some big plays from (D.A.) Lane and (Ezra) Williams."
The Crimson Tide returns to action after defeating Mississippi State 72-59 Saturday. Alabama was led in scoring by 6-foot-8 guard Rod Grizzard, who poured in a game-high 27 points. His 19.1 average is tops in the SEC.
Tonight's outing also features two of the Southeastern Conference's top freshmen, Ole Miss' Justin Reed and Alabama's Gerald Wallace.
Reed had the best game of his young career against Georgia, scoring 21 points and hauling in 12 rebounds. He also accounted for three steals.
"It was his best game," Barnes said. "He's maturing, but there is still a lot of room for improvement."
Wallace, who doesn't start, was held to just 6 points on 2-of-9 shooting in 21 minutes of play by State. He's averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds through 15 games, but in SEC play those averages dip to 5.7 and 4.7, respectively.
"Justin Reed is a very good player and is very talented," Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "He's stepped up for them and has provided some scoring. Like Gerald, he's been up and down. Both players are going to be very good."