Alabama went to Starkville badly needing a win following two straight losses, but unfortunately came up just short, falling by a 78-76 score.
The first half was mostly more of the same from Alabama. They didn’t play much defense but, while not shooting particularly well outside, managed to put 41 points on the board to take a four point lead into the break. The Tide again allowed too many offensive boards with six in the first 20 minutes, but to their credit they countered with eight of their own, led by Keon Ellis’ four. James Rojas got his first action of the season and, while he didn’t fill up the stat sheet, seemed to provide some needed toughness and a spark.
The second half started out as an up and down affair, but cold shooting kept the Tide from putting up what they should have, and the game was tied at 55 with 11 minutes left. Darius Miles joined Rojas on the hustle club, but the Tide just couldn’t get any separation. Noah Gurley fouled out with a shade over seven minutes to play with the game tied at 63, and Mississippi State big Tolu Smith followed suit shortly thereafter. Mississippi State won the critical minutes down the stretch and led by eight inside of five minutes.
The rebounding in the second half was utterly disgusting. I don’t know what the answer is, but on one trip Mississippi State got five shots. The Tide got sloppy with the ball, and that was that.
To their credit, the Tide again tried to mount a furious rally at the end of the game and even managed to knock down a couple of threes, but it was too little and too late. Mississippi State was the more physical team tonight, and they simply out-hustled the Tide. Bulldogs guard Iverson Mollinar was the star of the game, finishing with 24.
At this point, it is fair to say that there are certain things, namely defending and rebounding, that this team just isn’t going to do well. They are going to win when they shoot it well and lose when they don’t. It’s tough to win giving up 80 points a night, but this is where they are.
So, three straight conference losses it is. There is still plenty of time to right the ship, but they’d better get to righting. Next up is 15-2 LSU followed by a rematch with the Missouri team that just handled them a week ago. Hope for the best.