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Great Effort Falls Short For Bulldogs At Alabama In 64-56 Setback

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Jalen Steele led MSU with 15 points in his return to the lineup.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - While Mississippi State mustered another good effort Wednesday night, it was still not enough to return to the win column.

Down four points in the closing minutes, Alabama pulled away late to a 64-56 Southeastern Conference men's basketball victory at the Coleman Coliseum.

With the victory, Alabama kept its conference title hopes alive, while moving to 18-8 overall and 10-3 in league play. MSU dropped its 11th straight, while falling to 7-18 and 2-11. Alabama has won three straight in the series, including a sweep this season for the second time in three seasons.

While Alabama had MSU outmanned, the Bulldogs still competed and played hard.

"I was really proud of the effort tonight," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "Sometimes when you have crushing home losses like we did (to Texas A&M and LSU), you worry about the psyche. You really worry about losing the team. Then you see an effort tonight and you realize the kids are playing as hard and competing as well as they can."

MSU struggled on the offensive early as Alabama built an early 10-4 lead. The Bulldogs closed within 14-11 on a Jalen Steele 3-point basket. Still, the Crimson Tide was causing early problems with defensive pressure.

The Bulldogs were down 19-15 after a tip-in from Gavin Ware. Alabama responded with a 12-3 run. MSU managed one field goal over the final 5:34 of the opening half.

Alabama forced 11 first-half turnovers, scored 11 points off the turnovers, and led 31-20 at the intermission. The Maroon and White were on the way to a 23-turnover night.

"We put ourselves in a position and then same problem we have all year rears its head, and that is the turnover problem," Ray said. "So many of our turnovers are unforced, and you can't have those. If we cut the turnover number in half then we would be in position there at the end.

"Our half-court defense was really good tonight. On offense, if you come down and miss a shot, you can still set up your defense. When you turn the ball over, you don't have the opportunity to do that."

The Bulldogs fell down by 13 early in the second half but would not go away. The lead hovered in and out of double digits as the Bulldogs continued to dominate in their half-court defense.

Alabama went better than three minutes without a score and suddenly MSU drew within 47-43 on another Steele trey with 5:20 left in the contest.

The Crimson Tide responded with a 15-4 run to put the contest away.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 20 of 48 shots from the field (41.7 percent), 6 of 20 shots from 3-point range (30.0 percent) and 10 of 15 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Crimson Tide hit 20 of 51 shots from the field (39.2 percent), 3 of 15 shots from 3-point range (20.0 percent) and 21 of 27 shots from the foul line (77.8 percent).

MSU held a 33-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had seven assists and 23 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had 10 assists and 14 turnovers.

Steele led MSU with 15 points, while Colin Borchert added 14 points.

Rodney Cooper posted a double-double for Alabama with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Trevor Releford added 17 points, while Trevor Lacey added 11 points.

MSU hosts Vanderbilt at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The SEC Network will have a regional telecast from the Humphrey Coliseum.

 



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