The Alabama Crimson Tide finally played a complete game on Wednesday night to defeat Mississippi State 80-61 in front of 10,112 at Coleman Coliseum. The win, as most games will be the rest of the way, was a must for 'Bama. The Tide evened their record at 8-8, 2-1 in the SEC. The Bulldogs dropped to 11-5, 1-2 in conference.
Some areas of concern were addressed in this game. Shoot well? Check, 52.6% for the game. Shoot the three well? Check, 10-25 on the game (40%). Out-rebound the opponent? Check, 33-28. The Tide also managed six blocked shots and seven steals, winning the turnover battle 14-11. Save for a subpar night at the charity stripe (62.5% on 16 attempts), this was easily the most complete effort of the season.
Per usual, senior Trevor Releford led the way scoring 28 points on 10-13 shooting, including 6-9 from three point range. In 32 minutes of action the All-SEC performer added four assists, four rebounds and a steal, with only one turnover. Releford was joined in double digits by freshman Shannon Hale with 12, sophomore Retin Obasohan with 11 and junior Rodney Cooper with 10 off the bench. Obasohan, in his most complete game in the last month, added four rebounds, three steals and four blocked shots. Hale continued his strong play in the SEC, where he is averaging 13.7 points per game. State was led by big Gavin Ware with 18 points and six rebounds. Alabama native Craig Sword was the only other Bully in double figures with 12 points.
Despite a slow start, Releford dropped in 12 points in the first half to stake the Tide to a 38-26 lead at the break, with Cooper adding all 10 of his points in the opening half as well. In the second half 'Bama came out and added to the lead while avoiding the long scoring droughts that have so often hampered the team.
Four players- Releford, Obasohan, Cooper and Levi Randolph led the team with four rebounds each. The three-headed monster that plays center for Alabama combined for eight rebounds as freshman Jimmie Taylor and junior Carl Engstrom grabbed three apiece while Nick Jacobs had two boards to go along with eight points. One or more of the big guys is going to have to step up and grab eight to 10 rebounds a game for the team to be successful.
After the game Releford said, "after I hit the first couple of shots, I was feeling it and they kept going in, so i kept on shooting." Over the last five games Releford is averaging 23 points a game and four steals. If three or more teammates can join him in double figures each night, the team will have a chance.
Although this was a nice win, and the team played well, Mississippi State is woeful. The 11-4 record they had coming in can be attributed to a horrible non-conference slate. The Bulldogs' RPI currently sits at 156, ahead of only Auburn in the SEC. Regardless, it was great to get a win in a game that did not go down to the wire.
'Bama is back in action on Saturday, on the road, against a very good Missouri team. The game will tip off at 1p.m. CST and will be televised on ESPN2.
Roll Tide Y'all Roger