In a poorly played game by both teams, Alabama forced – or benefitted from unforced – 15 Mississippi State turnovers that resulted in 18 Crimson Tide points. Meanwhile, Alabama shot just 29 per cent in the second half, but managed an 11-3 run late in the second period to provide enough cushion for the victory.
Mississippi State had 11 turnovers in the first half, including seven steals by Bama, and the Tide had a seven-point lead and the ball late in the period. Alabama, though, was able to take only a 25-21 lead to intermission. Shannon Hale and Michael Kessens combined to go 6-9, scoring 15 of Alabama’s 25 first half points. The Crimson Tide improves to 13-1 on the season when leading at the half.
Hale matched his season-high with a game-best 14 points, also collecting four rebounds and a pair of assists. Senior Levi Randolph turned in 13 points, including a game-high 10 in the second half, and a team-leading 7 rebounds for the Tide.
Alabama connected on only 17-52 field goals for 32.7 per cent, while State was not much better at 17-46 for 37 per cent. The Tide was a horrendous 5-27 on three-point shots for 18.5 per cent. Freshman Justin Coleman was 0-7 from the field and five of those were three-point efforts. The Bulldogs were actually worse, making 2-12 from beyond the arc, 16.7 per cent. Alabama made 16-22 free throws, 72.7 per cent, State 15-23 for 65.2 per cent.
Mississippi State had a 37-33 advantage in rebounding.
The score was tied eight times and there were six lead changes. Bama took the lead for good on a jump shot by Hale with 7:31 to play.
When Randolph made a pair of free throws with a minute to play, Bama had a 52-44 lead. Six seconds later a three-point airball by State gave the Tide the ball out of bounds under the State basket. Then twice in a span of 10 seconds Rodney Cooper’s inbound pass was stolen and the Bulldogs made layups to pull to within four points with 44 seconds to play.
Bama was able to put the game away with Coleman, Cooper, and Randolph all making 1-3 on free throws.
Bama’s fifth consecutive win and seventh victory in the last eight meetings over the Bulldogs improved the Tide to 15-9 overall and 5-6 in Southeastern Conference games. Mississippi State fell to 11-13 and 4-7.
After two consecutive road games, Bama returns to Coleman Coliseum to host Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Saturday.