The Alabama Crimson Tide won their ninth straight game on Saturday night, defeating a big, tough, Mississippi State squad by a score of 81-73 in a hard fought contest that went down to the last minute of play before being decided. Bama has grown accustomed to blowing teams out, so a close game should be a great learning tool. The Tide was still without starting center Jordan Bruner - out after knee surgery - but also was without one of his main back-ups, James Rojas to the dreaded “unnamed medical condition.” The Bulldogs are one of the biggest and most physical teams in the league, so Bruner and Rojas were especially missed. In their stead, senior Alex Reese and freshman Keon Ambrose-Hylton stepped up and held their own.
Coach Nate Oats started Reese, John Petty, Herbert Jones, Jaden Shackelford, and Joshua Primo in the game. The Tide started off slowly which was to be expected after their virtuoso shooting performance on Tuesday night at LSU. In that game, the team set an SEC record for three point shots made with 23. Without Bruner and Rojas, the Bulldogs were able to control the boards and score in the paint to stay close. Primo hit a couple of early three point shots, and Jones had a pair of breakaway dunks to fuel the Tide. Jones gave everyone a scare with 5:53 left in the period when he came down hard on his hip/back and lay still for several minutes. After a quick trip to the locker room and a couple of minutes on the exercise bike, the senior warrior reentered the game.
Petty and Primo both hit two more threes in the final five minutes to stake the Crimson Tide to a 40-35 lead at the break. Alabama shot well with 14-31 from the field including 9-19 from the three point line, and 3-4 from the free throw line. State shot a lot of mid-range shots and put-backs and were 16-30 for 53% with only 1-4 from deep and 2-4 from the free throw line.
The Tide came out with more fire in the second half and stretched the lead out. Reese went down hard and had to be helped off with a lower leg issue only one minute into the period. The team built a nine point lead when three questionable foul calls in a row against the Tide gave State some momentum. The Dogs turned that into their good fortune, scoring seven points on free throws, and two on a hoop in the lane. Two of the fouls were on Primo and he had to come out with three fouls. From that point, the game became a slugfest — every time it looked like Bama was about to pull away MSU would find a way back into the game. With one minute left, the lead was only 76-73, and Petty drained a long three pointer with 31 seconds left, giving Bama some breathing room. Jones blocked a shot at the other end and hit Primo for a breakaway dunk for the last basket in a 81-73 win.
In the second half, the Tide shot 14-30 including 5-15 from three and 8-9 from the free throw line. For the game, Bama finished 28-61 for 46% with 14-34 for 41% from deep and an impressive 11-13 for 85% from the free throw line. Alabama had 21 assists on 28 made baskets, had 32 rebounds, six blocked shots, 13 steals, and 15 turnovers. MSU was 11-31 in the second half with 3-10 from deep and 13-13 from the free throw line. Overall, the Bulldogs finished 27-61 for 44% , 4-14 from three, and 15-17 from the free throw line. State had 36 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks, 13 steals, and committed 16 turnovers.
Jones was clearly laboring after his fall, but gutted out 37 minutes and led the team with 17 points, added five rebounds, seven assists, three blocks, four steals, and another hard hat award. Primo was on fire when he had to sit with foul trouble but still finished with 16 points in 23 minutes, hitting 4-5 from three point range. Petty cooled off, hitting “only” 4-10 from three point range and had 12 points. Shackelford also had 12 points, and Reese played a huge game with 11 points, four rebounds, and did a great job on defense. Ambrose-Hylton played 10 big minutes finished with four points, three rebounds, and plus/minus of +8. The win was a big one to show the team they can win in different ways.
Oats said that it was a good win and the team probably needed a close game after so many blowouts. Coach went on the say that “we didn't play well, but give them credit.” When asked about football player Ga’Quincy “Kool Aid” McKinstry’s status with the team, Oats said that “he had been practicing with us when his schedule permits,” and that he “loves the kid” and that Kool Aid “likes to talk” and that they played a game of pool together after warmups. McKinstry was not dressed out, but was on the bench offering encouragement to the team.
This team has shown remarkable resilience during their winning streak, playing without several different players and not missing a beat. Rojas and Petty missed one because of suspension, Jahvon Quinerly missed three games with illness, Bruner had knee surgery, Rojas is now sick, Jones broke his finger, and almost his back tonight, Reese is banged up, but the Tide keeps on rolling. The depth, chemistry, and playing style have made this Alabama team the talk of college basketball. Oats is making appearances on all the national talk shows and podcasts as the country learns more about this fast-rising coaching star. Hopefully, the University administration will do whatever they can to secure Oats for a long stay in Tuscaloosa.
️They can get it too! pic.twitter.com/n1bNW0A2Bt— Alabama Roundball (@BamaRoundball) January 24, 2021
Folks, this is fun. It is a shame that Coleman can't be packed to the rafters with the team playing so well. The crowds have been small, 2,000 people, but very vocal. The next game is a rematch with Kentucky on Tuesday night at home. The game will be played at 6 p.m CT and be seen on ESPN.
#RollTide #BallAndOats #NateOatsMyCousinVinnie