The short handed Crimson Tide had to play without second-leading scorer Shannon Hale on Tuesday night in Starkville, but was still able to pull out an 82-80 overtime thriller over the Bulldogs. Hale aggravated a foot injury in the loss to South Carolina on Saturday and was unable to go. As usual, Retin Obasohan led the team in scoring, netting 25 points -- his fifth straight 20-point effort, and 10th of the season.
The first half was fairly even, with 'Bama able to run the lead to as much as a seven points, before MSU was able to cut it to a four-point halftime deficit, 38-34. Obasohan scored 16 points in the first frame on 6-9 shooting. The team went into intermission hitting 52% (15-29) from the floor, including going 4-11 from three-point range and 4-5 from the free throw line.
Gavin Ware was the big gun for the Dogs, abusing the Tide's inside players to the tune of 14 points. MSU hit 14-32, 44% from the field, and only 1-8 from beyond the three-point line in the first half.
The second half began as a back and fourth affair with the Tide maintaining a three- to four-point lead, before Obasohan, Justin Coleman, and Riley Norris all scored to finally give Alabama a good lead: 51-42 with 13:11 left in the game.
The undermanned Bulldogs then ran off 14 unanswered points to take a 56-51 advantage with 8:53 left in the game. Bully's run was finally stymied as Arthur Edwards shook off a bad first half and joined the party, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to keep the Tide close.
The Dogs were able to keep the Tide at bay down the stretch, holding a one- or two-possession lead over the men in Crimson.
That was before Obasohan led his charges back. Coleman hit a reverse layup with 1:43 left to tie the game at 65, then Obasohan tied it at 67 with a jumper.
The end of the game brought a lot of confusion as MSU had the ball with 10 seconds left, and 'Bama was listed with five team fouls, meaning the Tide had one foul to give before the Dogs reached the bonus.
Mississippi State's Craig Sword missed the free throw and 'Bama fumbled the rebound as Coleman threw the ball into play while falling out of bounds under the Dogs basket. But, Sword mishandled the ball and was not able to get a shot off, sending the game to overtime.
Mississippi State scored the first four points of overtime before Norris drained a three-pointer for the Tide. Two free throws and a three-pointer by Coleman gave Alabama a 79-76 lead with 1:10 left in the overtime period. State scored to cut the lead to one with two seconds left. The Tide had Obasohan throw a deep inbound pass to a streaking Norris, who was fouled right away. Norris hit the first and missed the second, but when the Dogs rebounded the ball the clock ran out, and the Tide had finally secured a much-needed 82-80 road victory.
Once again Obasohan had a monster game: Besides finishing with 25 points, Retin dished a career high eight assists, while grabbing five rebounds and picking three steals. Riley Norris woke up in the second half, tossing in 16 points and adding five boards. Coleman had his best game in a while, finishing with 15 points. Arthur Edwards was also in double digits with 12 points, six of which loomed large stopping a 14-0 Bulldog run.
Due to the lack of depth Brandon Austin had his most extensive playing time of the year, logging 18 minutes and scoring four points with three rebounds. Little-used walk-on Lawson Schaffer was used in both halves to give Obasohan a short breather. Schaffer spelled Obasohan for three much-needed minutes. Freshman Donta Hall remained productive, grabbing five rebounds in his six minutes of court time.
The Tide's woes continued down low, however. Ware was too much for the Tide to handle, and he finished with a career high 28 points. Travis Daniels contributed 11 points, and Sword added 10.
Alabama shot well overall, finishing 27-58 from the field for 47%, 11-29 from three-point range (38%.) Free throws were again an issue, despite getting to the strip far more than Bully. The Tide went just 17-27 (63%) from the free throw line, and no miss was as potentially crucial as Riley Norris' final attempt with two seconds remaining in the extra frame.
MSU also shot well, going 33-71 (47%) from the floor, but hit only 3-18 (16%) from deep. Like the Tide, the Bulldogs also struggled at the charity stripe, getting to the line just 16 times and hitting only 11 (69%.)
The Tide did manage to outrebound the Dogs, 40-39, but again turnovers continue to plague 'Bama. The Tide committed 20 TOs on the night, while only dropping 14 assists.The Bulldogs were more careful with the ball, having just 12 turnovers to 14 assists.
A road win, even over a team that isn't very good, is a big step for this team. Playing shorthanded, the Tide sucked it up and followed the lead of their senior leader, Obasohan. Alabama may not always play pretty, especially for an undermanned team trying to learn how to win, but they do play hard for Coach Johnson. Help is on the way, and, with a full roster, one can see what Alabama basketball will look like.
RTR. #Buckle Up
Ed. Note: With this personnel, with the loss of Ingram and Eubanks, with the sporadic injuries, Johnson has done a helluva job to lead the Tide to wins over three ranked teams and a 12-9 (3-6) record. The Tide are in 11th place in the SEC. Heading down the stretch, the Tide have several winnable games, and it is not unreasonable to think a healthy Alabama can get hot and finish 6-12, 8-10 in the conference.
As of tonight, the Tide are 53rd in the RPI (SOS 10.) Ken Pomeroy is much less kind, ranking Alabama 86th (SOS 42.) The Tide can play itself into the NIT, but the first step is not dropping a winnable home game this Saturday at 2:00 CST versus Mizzou in Coleman Coliseum. The game will be broadcast by the SEC Network and ESPN3.