Extra Time Needed For Bama To Win

Long-suffering Alabama basketball went longer Saturday afternoon, but for a pleasant change didn't suffer. The Crimson Tide, a disappointment through most of this unusual season, fought to the end...and the end...and another end, and came out with victory.

Alabama got outstanding play from Alonzo Gee, watched a late Mississippi State fall-away jump shot fall off the rim, and left Coleman Coliseum with an 87-85 double overtime victory over the Bulldogs.

With the scored tied 74-74 going to the second overtime, Gee tied the game at 76 with a thundering putback dunk. After MSU got a three-point play on a steal, layup and foul by Raven Johnson, Gee made a pair of free throws and then hit a trey to give Bama an 81-79 lead. Back came Mississippi State with a trey—the Bulldogs tried a school record 39 of them and made 12—by Dee Bost. Gee answered with a three-pointer to give the Tide a lead it would not give up in the final 1:46.

Justin Knox made a pair of free rthrows before fouling out on a layup that turned into a three-point Bost play and again pulled the Bulldogs within one. Bama was having to adjust inside since JaMychal Green had fouled out earlier. That was off-set by the Bulldogs losing their star inside player, Jarvis Varnado, midway through the first overtime period. Varnado had a double-double (16 points and 11 rebounds) and if he'd stayed in another few minutes he may have added to his total of 8 blocked shots for a possible triple-double.

Bama's lead was one point at 86-85 and the Tide had the ball with 47 seconds to play. With 40 seconds to play the Bulldogs fouled Gee, who already had 28 points. About the only blemish on Gee's line was missing those two free throws.

Gee had perfect timing to block a Bost layup try with 11 seconds to play. State got the rebound and a timeout to set up a play. Barry Stewart got the call and his fadeaway jumper clanked away. Demetrius Jemison gathered the rebound for Alabama and made a free throw with three seconds to play. He missed the second, but Senario Hillman stole the ball before State could launch a length-of-court desperation shot.

Stewart was in the lane and missed two strongly contested jump shots in the final seconds of the first overtime. He said after the game that he decided not to try to take the ball inside in the second overtime because he didn't think the officials would call a foul on Alabama in that situation.

Alabama took a 74-71 lead with 2:17 to play in the first overtime, but Bama did not score another point. Stewart nailed a three-pointer with 1:06 to play and the Bulldogs didnt' score after that.

Early in the second half Mississippi State pulled away from its 29-28 halftime lead to take an eight-point lead on the Tide. Down 52-44, Bama began to pull back, primarily on the strength of defense. Green got a pair of free throws off an offensive rebound and then hit a jumper from the circle to pull Bama to within four. In a role reversal, point guard Mikhail Torrance got a dunk on an assist from Green. A layup by Anthony Brock tied the game at 52. A few minutes later Torrance completed the 12-0 run to give Alabama a 56-52 lead.

Alabama had the lead for most of the rest of regulation, including as much as a four-point lead at 66-62 with 39 seconds to play. But Stewart cut it to one with a three-pointer. Demetrius Jemison made one of two free throws for a 67-65 lead with 30 seconds to play. Green's fifth foul sent Bost to the line with 21 seconds to play and he sent it to overtime.

Alabama had the last shot of the half, but Torrance's layup try was blocked by Varnado.

Alabama Interim Coach Philip Pearson said, "We've been talking about trying to fight through adversity, and today we got a hard-fought win. We want to win. We've been so close. We want to keep playing and getting a little better."

Pearson said he was happy for Gee. "He made a bunch of plays throughout the game, then two huge ones in (the second) overtime," Pearson said.

"It felt good," Gee said. "Hopefully we'll get a winning streak going. But it was just one win. We have to keep playing. That's what we did today. Coach told us to keep focused and keep playing hard."

Gee scored 11 of his 28 points in the two five-minute overtime periods.

There were 11 ties and 17 lead changes in the game.

The win ended a five-game Alabama losing streak at the hands of Mississippi State. The Bulldogs had defeated Bama, 83-74, in Starkville earlier this year. Bama now has a 111-71 margin in the series. This was the 13th overtime contest in the series.

Alabama made 8 of its final 12 free throws. For the day, the game was clearly won at the free throw line as Bama was good on 31 of 39 attempts to Mississippi State making 19-26. Jemison finished with a season-high 11 points, nine of them coming at the free-throw line.

Gee had 28 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists in his 41 minutes of play. Senario Hillman had 21 points with good shooting, 9-13 from the field (including 1-3 on treys) and 2-2 free throws. He had 19 of his 21 points after halftime.

Alabama's defense held the Bulldogs to just 33.8 per cent shooting from the field. The Bulldogs hit 30.8 per cent on the 12-39 three-point shooting. State took 80 shots to 66 for Alabama. Bama won the rebound battle, 54-48.

"We gave them some different looks," Pearson said of Alabama's defense. "We played man, which I thought helped us throughout the game." Bama had played zone defense on inbounds plays, but in the final seconds of the second overtime played man-to-man on State's final inbounds play."

All five starters scored in double figures for State, led by Stewart with 20. Bost had 17, Varnado 16, Johnson 14, and Phil Turner 10.

An unusual aspect of the game in the first half was Mississippi State taking a 23-21 lead with 7:31 to play and that still being the score until Jeminson hit a pair of free throws almost three and a half minutes later.

Alabama improved to 14-12 overall and 4-8 in Southeastern Conference play. Mississippi State fell to 17-10 overall, 7-5 in league play.

Next up for Alabama is Arkansas in Coleman Coliseum Wednesday with tipoff set for 7 p.m.

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