The Alabama Crimson Tide held on to first place in the SEC by blasting the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 99-67 in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday night. ‘Bama improved to 16-6 overall and 8-1 in conference play. The Bulldogs fell to 14-8, and 3-6 in league play.
While Alabama did not get the hot start Coach Oats has been looking for, the fifth-year head man got everything else he’s asked for: defensive intensity, volume shooting, better offensive play in the post, and far better rebounding on both ends of the floor.
Unfortunately, Alabama was also on the receiving end of some truly absurd officiating, with the Bulldogs getting to the line 22 times more than the Tide. Fortunately for fans, the disparity fired up Coach Oats who drew his 23rd technical foul while at Alabama. And, as often happens when Oats gets a T, the rout was on: Alabama was comfortably up by 20+ most of the night.
It was another roaring, full house affair at Coleman that was best described by the Bulldogs themselves: “Shit, that’s just a good old-fashioned ass-whooping.”
Playing against one of the biggest and most physical teams in the league, Bama coach Nate Oats again went with his small four-guard lineup: Mark Sears, Aaron Estrada, Latrell Wrightsell, Jr., Rylan Griffen, and Grant Nelson were the first five out for the Tide.
Alabama has been prone to slow starts over the last several games, and Coach Oats has made it a point of emphasis to get going earlier — in Athens on Wednesday, the Tide only scored two points in the first eight minutes of the game).
It looked like the Tide had gotten the memo, as Griffen nailed a long three-pointer right off the jump. However, Alabama missed their next four shots from long range and fell behind 8-5 at the 16:07 mark. Compounding those shooting woes, Nelson got into foul trouble early.
But then Mohamed and Jarin Stevenson entered the game and made an immediate impact. Mouhamed Diouate joined them soon after and made his presence felt as well. Stevenson hit a trio of triples over the next few minutes to give the Tide a lead they never relinquished.
Sears took, and made, his first shot of the game with 8:30 left in the half to give Bama 21-16 lead. He added two more from deep, and Griffen netted one more, to built a comfortable 47-24 halftime lead.
The Tide shot 19-41 for 46% in the half, but a subpar 8-29 from behind the arc for 28%. Somewhat remarkable playing against the very physical Bulldogs, Alabama only shot only one free throw in the half. The Tide battled to grab 22 rebounds, with nine on the offensive glass, blocking two shots, having six steals, 11 assists, and only four turnovers.
Stevenson continues to grow, and led the team with 11 points on perfect 4-4 shooting, 3-3 from deep. Sears added nine on 3-5 from behind the arc, Griffen tossed in eight, and Dioubate scored seven points and had four rebounds and two assists.
MSU shot only 8-25 (32%) in the half%, including 0-7 from three, and did a lot of their damage at the charity stripe, making 8-11 shots. The bigger Dogs had been outhustled though, and secured just 18 rebounds, one steal, no blocks, four assists, and 11 turnovers. Tolu Smith had 14 points to lead the Bulldogs.
Oats used the same starting lineup for the second half, and the Tide toyed with the Bulldogs through out the period.
The officiating crew continued their one-sided whistles in favor the visitors, and after three minutes of play Oats had seen enough. The fifth year coach was assessed the 23rd technical foul of his Alabama career. With 15:49 left in the game, MSU was already in the bonus, and somehow had not committed a foul of their own. The technical led to States 22nd and 23rd free throws of the game in just 20 minutes of action. At the time Bama had still attempted only one freebie.
As often happens when Nate gets teed up, the Tide’s energy level ramped up at that point, and the game became a bloodbath.
Estrada hit a three, Stevenson added another, and when Dioubate grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast for a hoop, the Tide led 65-33 with 11 minutes left.
With 10:43 remaining the free throw differential was 26-1, yet Bama led by 28 points. Freshman Sam Walters finally found his shooting touch and hit back-to-back three-point attempts.
At the 8:03 mark, Coach Oats emptied the bench with a 75-46 lead in his pocket.
Wrightsell saw fit to attempt a midrange jump shot which drew Oats ire and a good ass chewing for the senior transfer. (To our certain knowledge, Brandon Miller is the only player Nate Oats has ever allowed to get away with midrange shots, and those sparingly.)
Sears drove the lane and got fouled with 7:20 left, and the Tide finally were shooting their second and third free throws of the game. Sears got to the line two more times, and finishing 6-6 at the stripe. Dioubate had another and-one opportunity that he made. And new scholarship recipient Kai Spears made a pair of his own. Those three were the only Alabama players that had free throw shots in the game, but finished a combined 10-10.
Wrightsell finally made a pair of three-point shots and Spears delighted the crowd with a long-range bomb of his own. To the mild disappointment of the raucous crowd, Bama couldn't quite reach 100 points, finishing with a 99-67 win. The Tide has scored 100 or more six times this season and now have tallied 99 twice and 98 once. They are the number-one ranked offense in the country for good reason.
In the second half, Bama shot 18-42 for 43%, 7-19 for 37% from deep, and 9-9 at the free throw line. Overall the Tide finished 37-83 for 45%, 15-48 from three for 31%, and a perfect 10-10 at the free throw line. Once again, Sears was player of the game and led the way with 21 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 28 minutes.
Estrada celebrated his 23rd birthday with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Stevenson had his best game to-date, with 14 points in 22 minutes. Dioubate picked up the hard hat award and scored a career high 14 points with nine rebounds, two assists, a steal, and two blocks. Walters played 20 minutes and had a solid eight points and seven rebounds, although he did miss a dunk attempt late in the game which brought a lot of laughter from his teammates. Griffen scored eight with two rebounds, but played lock down defense on
Bulldog freshman star Josh Hubbard. Hubbard, who averages 15 per game, was held to seven points on 1-7 shooting, doing most of his damage at the free throw line.
MSU shot 14-30 for 47% in the second with 4-9 from deep, and 11-21 for 52% at the line. The Tide held the Dogs to 37 rebounds, while State had 11 assists, seven steals, five blocks, and committed 18 turnovers. Smith scored 23 and grabbed five rebounds. Shakeel Moore added 13 points.
The Tide got the blowout win that Oats has been looking for by playing tough, relentless, defense. You will be hard-pressed to find a game where the home team shot 22 fewer free throws than the visitor, yet still won by more than 30 points.
With Nelson in foul trouble battling all-conference Smith in the post, and Nick Pringle still suspended, Wague, Stevenson, and Dioubate really stepped up and did the work down low.
The runaway allowed Oats to rest up his starters too, as no played over 28 minutes. It also gave the Tide’s deep bench a chance to shine, and they scored 47 points on their own — their best performance of the season.
The interior hustle that Alabama has frequently lacked at times, was there all night. Alabama not only demolished MSU on the glass, they outscored the larger ‘Dogs 44-34 in the paint. When Smith was asked about allowing 20 offensive rebounds to the Tide, his response was, “twenty offensive rebounds? Shit…that’s a good old-fashioned ass whooping.”
Yes, yes it was.
Nate Oats continues to show why he is among the best in the country. The 30-point victory was the Tide’s eighth such beatdown in SEC play under Oats. The rest of the conference has combined for a mere thirteen 30+ point victories during his tenure.
Next up, a rematch with the team on the other side of the state. The Tide travels to Auburn to play the second place Auburn Tigers. The game is Wednesday, February 7th, and is scheduled for 6 Central on ESPN2.