Bama Blisters Bulldogs, 67-50
Alabama did not have a particularly good first half. Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant said it "was a little disjointed. We couldn't get into a flow."
Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said, "We had the game at our pace in the first half."
But with four-tenths of a second remaining in the half, and the Bulldogs holding a three-point lead, Bama point guard Trevor Releford got State star guard Dee Bost off his feet and Releford got off a three-point shot. The shot wasn't close, but Bost came down on Releford, resulting in three free throws.
Releford nailed all three to tie the game at 25-25 at intermission.
"I thought we took the last play of the half into the locker room with us and let it affect the way we played in the first five minutes of the second half, and that was the ball game," Stansbury said.
Thirteen seconds into the second half, Releford drilled a three-pointer and Bama had the lead for good.
"That was a big shot by Releford to start the second half to give us a little bit of a lead going into the press," Grant said.
Alabama stretched its lead to 10 points within five minutes and led by as many as 21.
The win helps Alabama in the contest to earn a bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and gain a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Tide is now 19-9 overall and 8-6 in SEC games. The top four SEC teams have a first round bye in the SEC Tournament, which will be March 8-11 in New Orleans.
Mississippi State's fifth consecutive loss leaves the Bulldogs at 19-9 overall and 6-8 in league games. State had defeated Bama in Starkville, 56-52, on Jan. 14.
Alabama plays its final home game of the season Wednesday when the Tide hosts Auburn at 7 p.m. CST. Bama was a 68-59 winner over Auburn in Auburn on Feb. 7.
Grant said, "We had different guys stepping up and making plays. You can see it coming together. I'm excited about the coming weeks."
The Tide played a complete game. Grant said, "I thought it was a great defensive effort, along with a very good offensive effort."
Alabama held Mississippi State to only 38.3 per cent field goal shooting (18-47), including 6-16 on three-point tries (37.5 per cent). The Bulldogs missed some opportunities because of poor free throw shooting, making only 8-15, 53.3 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Tide was good on 25-47 field goals for 53.2 per cent. In the second half, when Bama outscored State by 42-25, Bama hit 16-25 shots (64 per cent). Bama was good on 6-11 three pointers for 54.5 per cent (and 5-7 in the second half for 71.4 per cent). Alabama made 11-12 free throws, 91.7 per cent.
Freshman guard Levi Randolph had an outstanding game, scoring 18 points on 65-9 field goals, 2-2 three-pointers, and 4-4 free throws, and had a team-high 7 rebounds, and added 4 assists and 3 steals with no turnovers.
Releford, who did not start the game for what Grant called a "time management decision," which seemed to allude to Releford not making wise use of his time, came off the bench to score 10 points. In addition to the six points around halftime, Releford helped stop the bleeding when State cut the Bama lead to only five points at 43-38 with just under 11 minutes to play. Releford took a pass from JaMychal Green on a baseline drive and converted a reverse layup. Moments later, Bama forced a State turnover and Releford got his other basket on a nice drive.
Green was back in action after a four-game suspension. He didn't start, but he made his presence known shortly after entering the game when he took a bounce pass from Releford on a fast break and threw down a thunderous dunk. Green had nine points.
Green said, "It felt great to be back with my teammates and to get the win."
Grant said, "JaMychal had a big impact in the game, and it was great to bring his leadership back. I think it was good for him; he needed to get back on the court. You could see the excitement in his face to get back all day long. I'm really happy for him."
Mississippi State features big men in Renardo Sidney (14 points, 3 rebounds) and Arnett Moultrie (7 points, but just 1-3 on field goals, 8 rebounds). Alabama rotated four big men against them – Moussa Gueye, who started but played sparingly; Carl Engstrom, who had 5 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 24 minutes of play; Nick Jacobs, who was 3-3 from the field for six points, but was limited by foul problems; and Green.
Green said, "Moultrie had 25 points and 13 rebounds (in the first game) and our bigs took that personally."
Mississippi State, playing without injured wing star Rodney Hood, got only four points from its bench. Alabama subs had 32 points.
The Bulldogs had been one of only three teams to outscore Bama in the paint in the first meeting. Saturday, Alabama had a32-16 advantage in close. The Tide also had a 16-4 margin in fast break points and a 14-12 edge in points off turnovers. Alabama had eight steals and committed only 10 turnovers. The Bulldogs had 13 turnovers.
Sidney and guard Dee Bost, who also had 14 points, were the leading scorers for Mississippi State.
TIDE NOTES: No one would have guessed Alabama's starting lineup. First of all, Trevor Lacey was back after having been pronounced as "doubtful" following a bad ankle sprain in Bama's win over Arkansas in Fayetteville Thursday night.
Lacey started the game, but went down late in the first half, and was taken out.
Grant said, "He didn't re-sprain it. Based on what happened two days ago, it was remarkable that he was even able to come back today at all. It's a testament to his hard work and toughness that he was able to take the court today. He aggravated it along the baseline as you saw. Based on the past three days, we decided to hold him out. He'll be ready Wednesday hopefully."
Not in the starting lineup was Releford. Moussa Gueye got his third consecutive start. Junior Andrew Steele was joined by freshmen Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper.
In the second half, Releford and Engstrom started in place of Lacey and Gueye.
Green scored nine points in his first action since Feb. 7 to give him 1,584 career points, 13th all-time at Alabama.
Releford was credited with just one steal in the game, but he now has matched his total from last season with 60, sixth most in a single season at UA. The school record for steals in a season is 79, set by Anthony Murray in 1977-78. Releford also has 120 career steals and needs just one more to crack the top 10 in career steals.
Mississippi State scored a season-low 50 points. Eleven of UA's 28 opponents have scored their season low to date against Alabama. MSU is also the 26th team this season that has scored below its season average against Alabama. MSU was the 17th opponent to score less than 60 points against the Tide. UA is 14-3 in those contests. The Bulldogs were the 12th opponent to shoot less than 40 percent against the Tide. UA is 11-1 in those games.
Alabama scored 1.16 points per possession, its highest average against an SEC opponent this season.
The win was the Tide's 31st win in its last 34 games at Coleman Coliseum and 14th in its last 16 SEC games at the facility.
The win was Anthony Grant's fourth win in six tries against the Bulldogs and the Tide's fourth straight home win over MSU.
UA is 115-73 against the Bulldogs and has won six times in its last eight games against MSU.
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