Bulldogs Block Tide Upset Bid

Mikhail Torrance did all he could do, but it was Mississippi State's night. Alabama had untimely turnovers, the Bulldogs' Jarvis Varnado was a rejection machine, and State made some timely–and long–second half shots to take a 74-66 win over Bama in Starkville Wednesday night.

Alabama was going for the sweep of Mississippi State this year, but not much went well for the Crimson Tide except for the scoring of Torrance, who poured in 23 points. Torrance hit his first six shots, half of them three-point shots.

This was not a case of Alabama having a big lead and letting it get away. Nor was it a case of Bama coming just short in losing a close game. Those have been the two most familiar scenarios for this Crimson Tide team. Bama did have an early first half lead of four points, but the Tide didn't score in the last 3:25 of the first half and trailed 31-29 at intermission.

Alabama was never able to take the lead or tie the game in the second half. State led bty as many as11 points in the second half.

The loss dropped Alabama to 14-13 overall and 4-9 in Southeastern Conference play. Mississippi State took over first place in the SEC Western Division with an 8-5 league record and 20-8 overall mark.

Alabama had defeated Mississippi State, 62-57, in an earlier game in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama returns home this weekend, hosting Ole Miss at 3 p.m. CST Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama pulled to within two points at 59-61 on an Anthony Brock three-point shot with 3:50 to play, but Mississippi State got a desperation three-point shot from Dee Bost. After a Tide turnover, Bost nailed a long three-point shot and the lead was back to eight at 67-59. Another three-point shot and a handful of late free throws sealed the win for the Bulldogs.

Jarvis Varnado had no trouble getting the blocked shots he needed to set the new NCAA record. He came in needing seven and had eight. That was part a function of Alabama having very weak inside players and helped by the SEC officials getting caught up in the blockfest and giving Varnado a free rein around State's defensive basket. Fouls were not an option. He now has 529 career blocked shots.

Varnado finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to go with his eight blocks. Mississippi State had a dozen blocked shots in the game.

Torrance finished hitting 8-12 from the field, including 3-4 on three-pointers. He did not have a three-point attempt in the second half.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "I thought Mikhail came out very aggressive. We wanted to be in attack mode."

Alabama was in immediate foul trouble. JaMychal Green got two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and sat for the final 17 minutes of the opening half with no points. To complicate Bama's gameplan, Green's back-up, Justin Knox, had his second foul midway through the period. Green finished with 12 points, all in the second half. He had a total of five rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Knox managed only two points and two rebounds. Grant said, "JaMychal picked up two early fouls. I thought our guys fought to be down only two at the half. We were fortunate to be right there at the half.

"They went on some runs in the second half that opened the game up, but our guys fought back and we had it to a one possession game and Bost hit two deep threes late in the clock. We defended well and they were contested shots, but they went in."

With Green and Knox out for much of the game, Chris Hines was forced to the low post. He scored only four points, but had a career high 10 rebounds and three blocked shots and also had three steals.

"I thought Chris Hines fought and played hard to get 10 rebounds," Grant saiod.

Senario Hillman had 13 points for the Tide.

Both teams made 26 field goals (Alabama 26-61, Mississippi State 26-56), but the Bulldogs had three more three-pointers, making 9-27 compared to Bama's 6-13. The Bulldogs made 13-19 free throws, Alabama 8-13. Somewhat surprising, Alabama won the rebounding battle, 38-34.

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