Tide Blasts Bulldogs

In addition to establishing itself as the early favorite to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division, Alabama stated to the nation that at its best, the Crimson Tide is a mighty force to be reckoned in its 98-49 win over 11th-ranked Mississippi State Tuesday night.

"I don't know if anybody would have beaten Alabama tonight with the way they were playing and the way they were shooting the basketball," Mississippi State Head Coach Rick Stansbury said.

On the national television stage of an ESPN broadcast, Alabama had its best defensive effort of the season, holding Mississippi State to 3-of-20 field goal shooting and forcing seven turnovers in the first half. The 49-point margin of victory was Alabama's largest since 1957, when Alabama beat Ole Miss by 53 points.

Alabama improved its record to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference while Mississippi State dropped to 15-4 overall and 3-2 in the SEC.

"We knew both of us were tied for first in the West and whichever one got the win tonight would have the upper hand on the other team. We got the win and we feel like we've got the upper hand on them right now," Alabama junior Kennedy Winston said.

Mississippi State had a first half shooting drought of epic proportions, going without a field goal for a stretch of 14 minutes and 35 seconds in the first half, ended by a Lawrence Roberts basket with a minute to play in the first half, when many Bulldog fans were making their exit plans.

"It all started with our defense," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said.

Junior forward Evan Brock had an impressive outing in the most extensive action of any bench player since the beginning of league play. Brock replaced Chuck Davis with 11:26 to play in the first half after Davis picked up his second foul. Brock logged 25 minutes in the game scoring seven points, but his biggest contribution was on the defensive end.

"I really thought Evan Brock gave us some great minutes tonight defensively," Gottfried said. "I thought Evan worked hard defensively and he played smart. He stood out more than anything."

On the offensive end, Earnest Shelton had a career night. The senior from Memphis finished the game with 34 points on 13-of-22 shooting, including hitting 5-of-11 three pointers. Shelton shot 8-of-11 from the field in the first half, including 5-of-7 from three-point range for 23 points at the break.

"It was just one of those nights that felt like every time I threw ball up it was going in," Shelton said. "We have had some heated games between us and Mississippi State. I guess you could say it feels good to do it against Mississippi State but any time you come out and play that well you feel good."

Alabama's top two scorers bested the entire Bulldog squad by nine points, with Winston adding 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 4-of-6 from three-point range in his 34 minutes of play. Chuck Davis added 14 points.

"That was one of those night's where we didn't do a lot wrong," Gottfried said. "Sometimes you have those nights where it just kind of goes your way. We just caught them on a night where they struggled and we played really well. In a game of this magnitude with two really good teams it's rare. We just hit on all cylinders tonight."

The Tide's stellar performance in friendly Coleman Coliseum was, however, only one game, and only the 4th of the 16-game Southeastern Conference schedule, as Gottfried noted both before and after Tuesday night's contest.

"Each game in this league is a one night, one game situation," he said. "What we're going to tell our players is that tonight has nothing to do with Saturday, and it had nothing to do with last week. It's today that's it."

"I think it helps your confidence," Gottfried said, "but you have to remember that just like the Vanderbilt game it's one win in league and that's all it counts for. We take it for what its worth."

Alabama held Mississippi State star Lawrence Roberts to 19 points, right at his per game average. Roberts' seven rebounds were well below his 11.5 average, however. As a team, Alabama outrebounded the Bulldogs 38-25.

"We felt like if we could keep the rebounding margin close it was our game. It was our night and it wasn't there's at all," Davis said.

"It's very special to get a win like this. I never would have thought we'd come out and play this well. I don't know what happened. We just came out and played so well and they played probably one of their worst games they've ever played."

Alabama played 13 players in the game and finished shooting 56.7 per cent from the field and 48 per cent from three-point range. The Bulldogs shot 36.2 percent on the night without making a three pointer in 11 attempts.

The Alabama crowd reacted strongly to a late foul on Brock by Mississippi State forward Shane Power. Power was called for an intentional foul on the play. Gottfried drew no ill will from the foul, however.

"I thought he went for the ball," Gottfried said. "I thought it was a hard play, he went for the ball and was not trying to hurt anyone. That was my impression."

Alabama goes on the road to play Mississippi Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.

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