The Alabama men's basketball team defeated Mississippi State Wednesday, 66-63. (Photo from @AlabamaMBB via Twitter).

Alabama Escapes Mississippi State 66-63

No.2 Alabama clinched a 66-63 win over Mississippi State last night at Coleman Coliseum. Mississippi State took Alabama down to the wire and held their lead against the Crimson Tide for the first 30 minutes of play. However, their upset fell short in the end. For the first time since 1976, Alabama have won the first 18 of 20 games this season.

 

With the Crimson Tide (18-2, 8-0) on track to end up a top seed in NCAA Tournament, close games are much more abundant in March, and there’s no time to overlook a lesser opponent.

First Half

Within five minutes of the game, the Bulldogs (12-8, 1-7) led 10-2. Despite losing eight of their last nine games, Mississippi State never relinquished the lead and outshot and outrebounded Alabama. Mississippi State’s offense ranked No. 168 in offensive efficiency before the game per KenPom, but shot 56.7% from the court during the game. Mississippi State held their advantage until the 9:19 mark of the second half when Rylan Griffen hit a three-pointer. Alabama extended its lead out to eight with 2:15 remaining until a dunk by Cameron Matthews, a layup by Tolu Smith and a pair of free throws by Dashawn Davis gave the Bulldogs a chance in possession in the last minute.

A few bad turnovers as well as improper defensive switches and coverages were blamed for the mistakes, according to Oats. He kept emphasizing effort more than anything else, or rather, its absence. Coaches pointed out the defensive miscues in the locker room at halftime, but their message to the team was not profound.

Second Half

In the second half, Alabama scored the first four points, raising the Tide to its feet. However, Mississippi State responded by scoring the next seven points, including its third three-pointer in nine attempts for a team that entered 343rd in Division I in three-point percentage. In an effort to find answers, Nate Oats continues to cycle through his bench. One of them is Jahvon Quinerly, who has seven points in 12 minutes without a turnover. The rest of Alabama has 10 turnovers in the first 24 minutes, including three by Noah Clowney.

According to Oats, the effort level changed in the second half. Despite some offensive blemishes in the second half, Oats believed his team still played harder than in the first half. The Crimson Tide grabbed its first lead with 9:19 left after getting some stops and converting some transition buckets and hitting a triple. In the last minute, the Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game on the three-pointer, but Alabama’s defense held strong.

Alabama leaders:

  • Scoring: Brandon Miller (19.8 ppg)
  • Rebounding: Noah Clowney (8.6 rpg)
  • Assists: Jaden Bradley (3.7 apg)

Mississippi State leaders:

  • Scoring: Tolu Smith (13.7 ppg)
  • Rebounding: Tolu Smith (8.1 rpg)
  • Assists: Dashawn Davis (3.2 apg)

Up Next for Alabama and Mississippi State

Alabama will take a short break from conference play for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge this weekend. Alabama will travel to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners this weekend. Meanwhile, The Bulldogs have another ranked foe to take on Saturday as they step out of conference to go against No. 11 TCU at 3 p.m. inside Humphrey Coliseum.

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