Second Half Plays Give Tide Win

Alabama, the victim of opponents' free throw shooting in recent weeks, made four clutch foul shots in the final 16 seconds in Coleman Coliseum Saturday as the Crimson Tide upset nationally-ranked Mississippi State, 62-57.



Alabama led through most of the game, but had seen its lead cut to only one point at 58-57 with 17 seconds to play when Mississippi State's Phil Turner had a putback. Bama's Anthony Brock was fouled on the in-bounds play and made both ends of the one-and-one for a 60-57 lead.

State worked for a three-point shot, but the Bulldogs' Barry Stewart had a foot on the line as the Dogs moved the ball around the outside. The turnover gave the ball back to Alabama. JaMychal Green was fouled on the inbounds play with six seconds to play. Green made both shots to clinch the victory.

The win broke a three-game losing streak for Alabama and improved the Crimson Tide's record to 12-7 overall and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games. Mississippi State, ranked 23rd in the nation, had its three-game winning streak end and suffered its first conference loss. The Bulldogs are now 15-4 overall, 3-1 in league games.

Alabama completes its three-game homestand when the Crimson Tide hosts LSU at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday. Bama opened SEC play this year with a 66-49 win over LSU in Baton Rouge.

Mikhail Torrance was the game's leading scorer with 20 points. Torrance was on the wing more than he was at point guard (with Anthony Brock playing point), and both Brock and Torrance had five assists.

JaMychal Green had 18 points and nine rebounds. Tony Mitchell had only six points, but had 12 points as Alabama had a surprising 49-45 advantage in rebounding.

Barry Stewart led State with 13 points. Jarvis Varnado was held to only nine points and eight rebounds.

Alabama outscored State by 50-42 from the field. As has been the case most of the year, the Bulldogs shot more free throws, but the discrepancy was not what it has been. Bama came into the game with SEC opponents having shot 92 free throws, the Tide exactly half that number, 46. Saturday, State made 15 of 23 foul shots, Alabama 12-18.

Shooting was poor for both teams, owing in part to aggressive defensive play. Bama shot 34.9 per cent from the field, State 31.7 per cent. Alabama made 6-19 field goals (31.6 per cent) and held the Dogs to only 2-18 (11.1 per cent).

Torrance said, "I think the coaches did a great job on the scouting report. Mississippi State was leading the league, averaging 10 threes a game, and today they were 2-18."

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "This is the way our team has to play. We felt we had to impose our will defensively, and we had a lot of success with that early. We were able to dictate for much of the game how the game was played. We knew they were going to make runs, but we hung in there and were able to overcome.

"We made some shots that had to go down, and we stepped up and made some free throws.

"Our guys played. That's what our guys have to do."

Grant also offered, "It's a long season. We're five games into a 16-game (SEC) season."

Alabama had a 46-34 lead with 11:20 to play, but the Bulldogs whittled away at the advantage. With 7:32 remaining, Barry Stewart was good on a three-point shot that put Mississippi State up by 48-46. Two Green free throws tied the game seconds later, and Bama re-took the lead for good when Brock hit a three-point shot on a fast break with five minutes to play.

After trailing almost throughout the first half (the game had been tied at 2-2), Mississippi State took the lead at 30-29 on a pair of free throws. After an Anthony Brock three-pointer put Bama back up by two, the Bulldogs tied it again before Mikhail Torrance hit a three to give Alabama a 35-32 lead with 16:44 to play.

The first half was reminiscent of some other Alabama games of note. The Tide opened the game with a 12-2 lead and built as much as an 11-point lead at 24-13. But Mississippi State closed the gap to only one point--27-26-- with a buzzer-beater by Dee Bost.

Alabama had also had a one-point halftime lead hosting eighth-ranked Tennessee earlier in the week. The Vols defeated Alabama, 63-56.

Also reminiscent of many games this year was the discrepancy in free throw shooting. In SEC games opponents had shot 92 free throws to Bama's 456, exactly a 2-1 ratio going into the game. In the first half Alabama had outscored Mississippi State 26-18 from the field, but the Biulldogs had made 8-13 free throws, Alabama 1-4.

Grant said during a timeout late in the game that Green "told his teammates, ‘We've got to fight back.' And I think that's what we didn."

Alabama's starting lineup was a first because Chris Hines had his first start. He was joined by Tony Mitchell, making his seventh start, and regulars Mikhail Torrance, JaMychal Green and Anthony Brock.

Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado became the second leading shot-blocker in NCAA history. The 6-9, 230-pound senior had four blocked shots against Alabama. He leads the nation this year with 100 this season. He now has 494 for his career. He moved past Adonal Foyle of Colgate, who had 492, and now trails only former Louisiana-Monroe star Wojciech Mydra, who had 535 (1998-2002).

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