Steele-less Bama Falls At Starkville

Alabama's men's basketball team has become accustomed to playing without star point guard Ronald Steele, and the Crimson Tide was without the senior Wednesday night. Unfortunately, Bama has also become accustomed to losing frequently when playing without Steele and that was the case at Mississippi State.

Alabama went to Starkville in hopes of the upset, but Mississippi State was hot from three-point range in the second half and was able to hold off a hard-working Bama team, 83-74.

Alabama falls to 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play and Mississippi State is the only undefeated team in the SEC Western Division at 2-0.Bama is 11-5 overall, the Bulldogs 12-5.

Alabama continues in SEC play and on the road. Bama will be at Auburn for a game at 1 p.m. Saturday. Ron Steele, who is suffering with a heel injury and did not make the trip, is considered questionable for Saturday's game.

No one could question Tide effort in trying to get the win. Bama pulled to within four points with a minute and a half to play when Brandon Hollinger's three-point shot was followed quickly by an Alonzo Gee steal and feed to Mikhail Torrance for a layup. The Tide, which won the rebounding battle 36-34, was down by just 72-68 with a 9-0 run.

But needing to maximize its possessions, Alabama had some inopportune turnovers on inbounds passes and ended up having to foul the Bulldogs, who made a respectable amount to hold off Bama. For the game, State hit 14-21 free throws.

Alabama held the lead much of the first half and was up by 36-33 at intermission. But State, which had managed only 3-13 on three-point tries in the first half, hit 7 of their first 8 in the second half. State finished the game having made 11-24 treys against what has been a good three-point defensive team. The Bulldogs had made 36 three-pointers in their previous three games, so Bama knew what to expect.

Mikhail Torrance, who has had almost no playing time in the last month, led the Tide with 20 points in 22 minutes of play. Hollinger started the game at point, but Torrance took over that job as Bama played basically a four-guard lineup with Torrance at point. Torrance was 6-9 from the field, including 2-3 on treys, and 6-6 on free throws.

Freshman post player JaMychal Green had an excellent game for the Tide with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Senario Hillman had 11 points for Bama. Alonzo Gee had 15 points.

State was led by Phil Turner with 17 points.and Dee Bost and Barry Stewart with 13 each. Bost also had 10 assists. Jarvis Varnado had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said the difference in the game was State getting hot on its three-point shots in the second half. He praised Bama's defense beyond the arc in the first half and said it continued to be good for most of the second half, but that the Bulldogs made some difficult shots.

The Tide coach was pleased with the games he got from Torrance and Hollinger filling in for Steele, and was also high on the fine game played by freshman Green.

Everyone, said Gottfried, "played their tails off. They wanted to win."

He said, "We did a lot of things well, but we had a stretch in the second half where we didn't defend well.

"We scored enough points to win."

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