Tide Tops State

When Mississippi State was forced to go small, Alabama freshman Richard Hendrix turned up big as the Crimson Tide took a 65-59 basketball victory over the Bulldogs in Coleman Coliseum Saturday night.

Alabama appeared on its way to an easy victory with a 10-point halftime lead, but Mississippi State scored the first 10 points of the second half and it was a difficult battle for Bama until the Tide took an eight-point lead inside the three-minute mark.

Alabama improved to 11-7 overall and 4-2 in Southeastern Conference games, while State lost its sixth straight game to fall to 11-9 overall and 1-6 in SEC contests.

Alabama is on the road for its next contest. Bama will be at Georgia Wednesday. Tipoff will be at 7:30 EST (6:30 central).

Freshman Richard Hendrix had what Bama Coach Mark Gottfried called "probably his best game" as Hendrix had a game-high and career-best 22 points and 16 rebounds.

Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said, "Hendrix has become a player since Chuck got hurt. He's a load in there." Hendrix moved into the starting lineup following a season-ending injury to Chuck Davis, who watched the game from behind Alabama's bench Saturday night.

Among Hendrix's 16 rebounds were 10 offensive rebounds. With 4:15 to play and Bama leading by only two points, Hendrix grabbed an offensive board and put it back. He followed a minute later with a huge dunk off and offensive board. Moments later he had an important steal and followed that with a nice assist to Jermareo Davidson for a layup that gave the Tide a 61-53 lead with 2:47 to play.

Hendrix was the primary reason Alabama had a 42-35 advantage on the boards. The Tide had 19 second chance points to 6 for State.

Hendrix wasn't the only Tider making clutch plays. Although his overall line might not look too impressive as he was only 3-10 on field goals and only 1-6 on three-pointers, Jean Felix had big baskets. His short jumper in the lane gave Bama the lead for good at 59-48 and he followed that a minute later with two free throws. With 5:16 to play and State within a bucket, Felix made his only three-pointer for a 55-50 lead.

Felix also had five of Alabama's 22 steals and did not have a turnover. Bama's press created several of the Bulldogs' 15 turnovers. Alabama scored 18 points off State turnovers, while the Bulldogs scored 10 points off Bama's 11 miscues.

Bama seemed to be comfortably in control with a 30-15 lead with just over two minutes to go in the first half. But State outscored the Tide 6-1 in the moments before intermission. Still, the Tide had a healthy 10-point lead.

Then State came out and hit 10 straight points to start the second half and tie the game at 31-31.

"They hit some shots over our zone, and then we had to get out of the zone, which gave us match-up problems," Gottfried said. "They were playing with four small guys and we didn't want to go small."

For all that, State held the lead for a total of less than one minute in the game, and that at one point, 48-47.

It was Alabama's second consecutive home game in which the Tide had a huge advantage in free throw attempts. Alabama shot 40 fouls shots to only 13 for the Bulldogs and Bama made 25 freebies to only 5 for State. Meanwhile, State was shooting more field goals, 58-50, and making more, 24-19. The Bulldogs hit 6-23 three-pointers to Bama's very poor 2-16 (12.5 per cent).

Hendrix was jointed in double figures scoring by Jermareo Davidson with 14 points and Ron Steele with 11.

State was led by freshman Jamont Gordon with 18 points and 8 rebounds.

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