NASHVILLE – When it rains it pours, and Alabama rained on Mississippi State’s parade at both ends of the floor Friday afternoon at the SEC men’s basketball tourney in the Music City, to the tune of a 75-55 whipping.
Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said, “Pretty good performance for us on both ends of the floor. We had a combined effort both on the defensive and offensive end. Some shots went down for us. We were patient on offense, and very physical on defense, and did a great job of moving our feet on defense.
“We’ve been talking about how we got sped up in the second half against Tennessee (in a Saturday loss). We went out and practiced those situations, and the men seemed to have responded. You saw the ball move probably as much as you’ve seen it move in the last three weeks. “
Alabama had 16 assists versus nine turnovers.
Added senior guard Corban Collins, who scored 14 points and made 4-6 behind the arc, “I was able to take my time, and joking with the coaches, they just told me to keep shooting. Shooters shoot.
“The coaching staff talked about how we need to learn from the mistakes we made in the regular season. We wanted to put emphasis on putting two full halves together, and we were able to do that.”
Bulldogs Coach Ben Howland said, “I though their defense really caused us problems offensively throughout the game. We really struggled to score.
“We decided not to double team the post, and that was probably a mistake. They went to the foul line 26 times and we went six. We really were handled in the second half. Alabama is really improved.
“Give Alabama credit. They’re very good, very physical, and they really stretched that lead. Their bodies, their strength is very, very impressive.”
In the first half, the Tide earned an early 12-6 lead with help from good free throw shooting and a Corban Collins 3-poiner just before the 14:58 media time out. The largest lead of the half for the Crimson Tide (18-13, 11-8 SEC) was 13 points on a jumper from the paint by Donta Hall at the mark.
At the half, Bama led 34-22 thanks to a buzzer-beating trey by Avery Johnson, Jr.
Johnson Senior said, “Part of our game is we don’t finish halves strong. We ran something we’ve been working on. Junior was open, he caught the ball, shot it, we got a good look, and it went in. That momentum swing right there is a small detail area we needed to improve in, and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.”
“Alabama out-physicaled us, and they did a good job of running us off the 3-point line,” said State senior guard I.J. Ready.
Bama had a 9-4 first half lead in points off turnovers. Redshirt freshman guard Dazon Ingram was already at 10 points at intermission en route to his 17.
Riley Norris opened the second stanza scoring with an “and one” to put the Tide up by 15. That play also helped set the tone in the win.
State (16-16, 6-13) had to call a time out after Ingram drained a three and a lane jumper on consecutive trips to give Bama a 45-27 with 15:54 remaining.
“We came out and got a good warmup. That was a big key for us. We stayed focused during the warm-ups, came out, and it carried over,” said Ingram. “On offense, we just want to be patient. That’s what we were able to do, and we got good quality shots at the basket.”
Ingram and Collins were joined in double digits by Johnson Jr. and Hall, who each scored ten. Norris grabbed seven boards, and Johnson Jr. played his best floor game with six assists, no turnovers.
Bama built its second half lead to as many as 30 points with 7:59 left on a driving layup by Norris. An 18-0 run helped matters immensely for the Tide.
Next up for the fifth-seeded Crimson Tide is a Friday quarterfinal game against South Carolina. Tip time on the SEC Network is set for 25 minutes after the noon CST game between Kentucky and Georgia, likely around 2:45 p.m. The Gamecocks are the tourney’s number four seed.
Said Johnson: “We take pride in being a physical team, and they are a physical team. You have to play physical, but smart. We have to play defense with our feet, and not our hands.
“I had a front row seat in a four overtime game (that Bama won 80-76 in Columbia), and (Syndarius Thornwell) gives you nightmares. They’re an NCAA Tournament team, and we’re going to have to be ready to play.”