Alabama Basketball Continues To Be Bad

Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, Alabama basketball gets worse. Or at least doesn't get any better. That Crimson Tide that was struggling to beat the likes of Troy and Southern Miss and Southeastern Louisiana in pre-conference games is just barely competitive against average Southeastern Conference teams.

Four of those mediocre SEC teams have beaten Alabama this year, the latest Mississippi State sending Bama to an 11-8 overall record and 0-4 conference mark with a 66-56 win over the Tide in Coleman Coliseum Saturday.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried says the fault lies completely with him, a generous concession frequently made by coaches who believe they are bullet-proof insofar as job security. "It's 100 per cent right here with me," he said. "They are playing hard. The responsibility is mine."

Gottfried, Alabama players, and Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury all credited the play of the Bulldogs, who improved to 4-0 in SEC play and 13-5 overall. And all of them started with the play of junior wing player Jamont Gordon, who hit 10 of 17 shots, including four of eight three-point shots for 24 points.

Alabama now has a week off before hosting Auburn in what will be the second of four consecutive home games. Tipoff for that game next Saturday, January 26, will be at 2 p.m. with regional television by the SEC's Raycom Network.

The game followed something of a familiar Alabama pattern. The game was very close until just before halftime when the Bulldogs scored the final six points of the period to take a 33-28 lead at intermission. Mississippi State then went on a 9-3 run to start the second half and had a comfortable lead most of the way. Alabama cut the lead to four points (52-48) on a layup and free throw by Richard Hendrix with 8:21 to play, but gave up an immediate uncontested three-point shot to the Bulldogs. With 3:58 to play Senario Hillman scored a layup on a nice inbounds pass from Rico Pickett and Hillman then made a free throw to cut the State lead to 59-55.

But on Alabama's next four trips the Tide had three turnovers and a forced shot that missed. Meanwhile, Mississippi State scored seven unanswered points, including a run-out dunk off a steal and two putbacks. (For the game the Bulldogs had 17 second chance pointgs, Alabama only five.)

Stansbury said, "Down the stretch, we've got to be the toughest team on the court." His Buloldogs were.

Alabama played Mississippi State with a zone and the Bulldogs shot a lot of three-pointers over it. Most of those trey tries were not guarded and State connected on 12 of 26 of them.

Alabama continued its terrible three-point shooting, hitting only two of 14. That was the same percentage (14.3) as the previous game when Alabama made three of 21 in a loss to Georgia. Bama also continued to be a terrible free throw shooting team, hitting only 14-24, but this was a game in which Alabama was not the worst free throw shooting team on the court. State hit only four of 13.

Alabama was out-rebounded, 34-29, and the Tide had 17 turnovers to only 12 by Mississippi State, so the Bulldogs got 10 more field goal attempts.

Mississippi State's coach said he made the determination that the Bulldogs could hold Bama wing players Alonzo Gee and Mhykal Riley down and win the game. Mission accomplished. While Richard Hendrix was having a strong game for the Tide with 21 points on eight-of-10 field goals and five-of-eight free throws, Riley and Gee were both two-of-nine from the field, Riley one-for-six and Gee 0-3 on three-pointers. Gee hit six of nine free throws so he was a double figures contributor in scoring with 10 points.

Gottfried, who said he continues to be impressed with the effort of his team, said that Alabama was just not making three-point shots, but that as long as the players got good looks he would encourage his players to keep shooting them.

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