A lethargic, sloppy, Alabama basketball team couldn't build on their two game winning streak, losing on the road in Starkville on Tuesday night by a score of 81-62. It has been said when good things happen for Bama basketball, bad things are sure to follow. That adage held up as the Tide committed 18 turnovers, mostly unforced, and couldn't keep up with the inspired Bulldogs. MSU had lost two straight games at home and four of their last six games prior to Tuesday night. The win for the Dogs was revenge for their 83-79 loss in Tuscaloosa on January 29th.
Coach Avery Johnson continued with his starting lineup of Donta Hall, Tevin Mack, Herbert Jones, Dazon Ingram, and Kira Lewis. Since switching to this lineup several games back, the Tide has played better and have received a big boost off the bench with the likes of John Petty, Riley Norris, Alex Reese, and Galin Smith averaging around 30 points a game combined. That went by the wayside last night as the bench contributed only five points, three by Norris and two by Reese. Petty, the team’s second leading scored, was shut out in 23 minutes of play.
The Tide started off well, but quickly went over six minutes between field goals, and fell behind 16-8. It seemed that every time Bama made a mini run, cutting the deficit to under double digits, they would follow with back-to-back careless turnovers which State turned into baskets. At the half, the Dogs led 43-30 on the back of the nine Tide turnovers and their own 19 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end. Alabama was 10-23 for 43%, including 3-9 from behind the arc and 7-8 from the free throw line at the break. State was 14-29 for 48%, including 3-7 from deep and 12-16 from the free throw line. Bama trailed 19-11 in rebounding at the break.
The second half brought more of the same, with the Tide making inroads to cut the lead to eight or nine points on several occasions. Each time, bad turnovers led to State breakaway dunks, or pull up three point shots. The big shot that would have built momentum wouldn't fall for Bama, or they would turn the ball over and not even get a shot attempt off.
Quinndary Weatherspoon had a quite first half for the Bulldogs, but took advantage of a matchup with Norris to score 10 straight points midway through the period to keep the Dogs comfortably out in front. Lamar Peters was the top scorer for MSU with 22, followed by Q with 20.
Lewis shook off a bad first half to finish with 17 points on 5-12 shooting, 3-7 from deep and 4-4 from the free throw line to lead the Tide. Mack finished with 13, while Ingram had 12 and Hall added 11. Everyone else combined for nine points. Hall grabbed seven rebounds and Mack and Lewis had five each. Bama finished 22-51 for 43%, including 7-24 (27%) from deep, but shot 11-12 from the free throw line. UA finished with 26 rebounds, 18 turnovers, 14 assists, five blocks, and three steals. Mississippi State was 29-59 from the field for 49%, including 7-15 (46%) from deep and 16-20 from the free throw line. The Dogs had 35 rebounds, 14 of them offensive, and 13 assists, 12 turnovers, six blocks, and an incredible 15 steals. Many of the steals were garnered by just catching the ball that Tide players threw right to them.
Face it, not many people actually expected the Tide to win this game, but the perceived lack of focus, effort, and hustle, were frustrating. MSU has a good team, with explosive guards, and a couple of nice players down low, but giving up 28 points off of turnovers is a recipe for disaster. So often simply not taking care of the basketball was the culprit. Getting destroyed on the offensive glass didn't help matters either.
DOWN THEW STRETCH
The Crimson Tide comes home Saturday to host Florida in a game scheduled for 1 p.m. that will be televised on either ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU. Florida is struggling and Bama really needs to take care of the home court. At 6-5 in the league with seven games remaining, Alabama needs to go at least 4-3 down the stretch. With road games at Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Arkansas, and home games with Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, and Auburn that is definitely doable. Win five of the seven and the team’s ticket to the big dance should be punched.
Roll Tide and Buckle Up