Releford Bombs Key Tide Past MSU

The only bad thing about playing Mississippi State Wednesday night is that it is the only time this year Alabama will have a pretty sure win. With the SEC schedule consisting of only 18 games for 14 teams and with there being no West and East divisions in basketball, this was the only meeting of the year between Alabama and Mississippi State.

It is the first time since the 1963-64 season the teams did not place twice in regular season.

Alabama senior guard Trevor Releford hit 6-9 three-point shots and scored 28 points in leading the Crimson Tide to a 80-61 win over Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. Bama evened its record at 8-8 and improved to 2-1 in Southeastern Conference games. The Bulldogs fell to 11-5 overall and 1-2 in the league.

Releford was good on 10-13 from the field and 2-2 free throws in ringing up his 28 points. He also had four assists. The Tide put four men in double figures. Releford was followed by Shannon Hale with 12, Retin Obasohan with 11 (despite 0-3 on three-pointers and 3-7 on free throws), and Rodney Cooper with 10.

Gavin Ware led the Bulldogs with 18 points, while Craig Sword had 12 points.

Alabama was an uncharacteristic 52.6 from the field and 40 per cent on three point shots. Bama made 30-57 field goals, 10-25 on treys. The Tide was 10-16 on free throws, 62.5 per cent. State was held to 44 per cent shooting from the field (22-50) and 3-10 on three-point shots. The Bulldogs made 14-18 free throws (77.8 per cent).

Alabama out-rebounded State, 33-28, but scoring in the paint was about even, Bama 36, Bulldogs 34. The Tide scored 17 points off 14 State turnovers, MSU 11 points off 11 Bama turnovers.

Alabama and Mississippi State have been among the best teams in the nation in steals. Bama had seven, the Bulldogs only three.

Alabama faces its toughest test of the SEC season to date when the Crimson Tide goes to Missouri Saturday. Tipoff will be at 1 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN2. Bama returns to Coleman Coliseum Thursday, Jan. 23, hosting Florida.

Alabama's 38-26 halftime lead had the Tide ending with a little run. Bama had gotten the lead out to 10 points at 29-19 with five and a half minutes to play, but State answered with three straight layups to cut it to 29-25 with 3:50 remaining. Bama had been riding the outside shooting of Rodney Cooper, Trevor Releford (two treys each) and Shannon Hale (two outside shots that banked in), although Releford had some nice assists inside to Nick Jacobs for short baskets.

Then Retin Obasohan had a driving layup and a couple of free throws, Cooper had a nice putback on a fast break chance, and Hale hit two foul shots to give Bama its 12-point halftime margin.

State's only lead had been at 2-0 and after Bama went ahead 5-2 the only tie of the first half was at 5-5. A Cooper trey gave the Tide the lead for good.

Alabama pulled away gradually in the second half, until a three-point barrage made it a rout. Releford hit back-to-back three-point shots in a 40-second span and Hale followed a moment later with a three-pointer. Hale had a nice slam on an assist from Releford, Jacobs a putback of his own miss, Releford another trey, and Levi Randolph scored on a fast break for a 23-point lead with 9:24 to play.

Although it didn't matter, a crowd favorite was walkon Dakota Slaughter's long three-pointer that closed out the game scoring with three seconds to play.

TIDE NOTES: The starting lineup for Alabama had junior Carl Engstrom at center, freshman Shannon Hale at forward, and guards senior Trevor Releford, junior Levi Randolph, and sophomore Retin Obasohan.

Alabama and Mississippi State have played 192 games in history. The Bulldogs are the team Bama has played most in men's basketball. The Tide leads the series 118-73, including 75-16 in Tuscaloosa and 38-8 in Coleman Coliseum.

Bama's win was the fourth in a row over the Bulldogs and the sixth straight in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama has now won 14 consecutive SEC games in Coleman Coliseum, which is the best conference home winning streak in the league. Bama's next home opponent, Florida, is the last team to beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa, a 61-52 decision last Feb. 14.

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