The Alabama Crimson Tide overcame poor shooting, their coach being ejected, and some questionable officiating to win their third game in a row on Wednesday night, by beating Mississippi State by a score of 80-75. Bama improved to 17-9 and moved over .500 in the SEC at 7-6. The Bulldogs fell to 14-11 and 5-7 in the league. Jahvon Quinerly, Charles Bediako, and Darius Miles were the stars of the night.
Coach Nate Oats sent out a starting lineup of Quinerly, Bediako, Keon Ellis, Jaden Shackelford, and Noah Gurley. Bama took a 7-4 lead on a Quinerly three pointer with 16:43 left in the first half and held the lead throughout the period. Quinerly hit another long range shot with 7:40 left for the biggest lead of the half at 26-18. MSU finished strong to cut the lead to 34-30 at the break.
In the half, the Tide shot 13-31 for 42% including 3-15 from three, and made 5-7 free throws. Bama had 25 rebounds, six assists, six blocks, three steals, and six turnovers in the half. State shot 11-34 for 32%, was 0-4 from deep, and made 8-9 free throws. The Dogs had 19 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, four steals, and four turnovers.
Quinerly hit his third, and last, three point shot with 18:36 left in the game for a 37-32 Tide margin. Shackelford and Bediako combined for three baskets and the Tide built a seven point lead with 17:04 remaining. The Bulldogs, the worst three point shooting team in the SEC, hit six straight threes to open the half. With 10:38 left in the game MSU had battled back to tie the game at 55 each. After a perceived missed call on one end, and then a missed call where it appeared that Ellis was fouled on a three point attempt, Oats garnered his first technical foul. On the next trip down Oats was still jawing at the officials and was whistled for this second violation and thrown out of the game. The Dogs made all four free throws after the techs and suddenly built a seven point lead.
Oats’ exit seemed to wake up the team and the crowd, and the Tide answered. From down 65-57 Bama went on a big 18-2 run to take control of the game. Bediako hit both ends of a one and one with 6:02 left to tie the score at 64. One minute later on a missed three pointer bu Quinerly, JD Davison came flying in from the top of the key for the follow up basket and a foul, making the freebie for a 67-66 lead with 5:01 left. The score remained there until a Bediako dunk with 2:15 left on the clock. Miles hit two big free throws with 1:11 left for a seven point lead and followed that with a breakaway tomahawk dunk to give the Tide some breathing room at 75-66 lead with 58 seconds left. Some sloppy ball handling allowed State to close the lead to 78-75 with 14 seconds left, but Miles sealed the deal with two more free throws. State couldn't score anymore and the Tide had the much needed victory.
In the second half, Bama shot 15-32 for 37% including another 3-15 three point performance and made 13-16 free throws. For the game the Tide finished 28-63 for 44%, 6-30 for 20% from three, and 18-23 for 78% from the stripe. The men in Crimson had 48 rebounds including 15 offensive, 15 assists, six steals, nine blocks, and committed 14 turnovers. The Dogs were 15-38 for 39% in the second half including 6-17 for 35% from three, and 9-10 from the line. Overall the Bullies finished 26-72 for 36%, 6-21 for 28% from deep, and 17-19 for 90% from the line. MSU, one of the best rebounding teams in the league, was held to 36 rebounds, had 12 assists, seven steals, seven blocks, and only nine turnovers.
Individually, Quinerly played one of his better games of the year with 21 points on 8-16 shooting, 3-8 from deep, eight assists, two blocked shots, and only two turnovers. Bediako won the hard hat award and had one of his best games with 15 points on 6-7 shooting, five rebounds, and six blocked shots. Shackelford scored 12 points despite going 0-6 from deep and added eight rebounds and four assists. Miles was outstanding in his 21 minutes with 12 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Fresh off being named SEC freshman of the week Davison led the team in rebounding with 10 while scoring seven points in 18 minutes while having a +10. James Rojas brought his usually energy and toughness, scored nine points and led the team in +/- at + 12. Ellis struggled and finished 0-8 and did not score a point. The Tide’s bench outscored the Dogs’ bench 30-11.
After the game Oats said that “I screwed up and got tossed, but the guys answered the bell. The staff did a great job and the crowd definitely woke up and helped out” The third year coach praised Bediako’s play saying “Charles just keeps getting better and better.” Oats noted that “out-rebounding one of the best rebounding teams in the league by 12 was huge, our guards really answered in that regard.” Oats went on to say that he can’t remember ever being ejected from a game except one time when he was coaching a youth team. Oats mentioned that Davison, Miles, and Shackelford really picked up the slack on the boards while playing a smaller lineup.
This was a huge win for the Tide to get back over .500 in the SEC. A three game winning streak has pushed the team closer to securing a NCAA bid and good seeding, If Bama can finish strong over the last five games they could end up as high as a five seed in most peoples’ opinions. Win four of the five and a couple in the SEC Tournament and they could go even higher. If Quinerly can build on this game and get back to playing like he did at the end of the last season, with Bediako improving game by game the Tide could make some late season noise. Shackelford is going to have to regain his shooting eye, and Ellis simply can not throw up a goose egg again. Davison has played his best basketball the last two weeks, and Miles can really help in a number of ways. Rojas and Jusaun Holt aren't getting a ton of minutes but are making an impression when they do.
Up next is a road trip to Lexington to take on a mad group of Wildcats. UK was destroyed by Tennessee on Tuesday night and will look to bounce back on Saturday. The game is at Noon C.T. and will be shown on CBS.