In a game Alabama Basketball badly needed to win, it came up short Saturday night in Starkville. Tide fans who did not see the game, will see the 78-76 loss and mark it down as a tough loss. It was that and more.
The Bulldogs are a good but not great team. In this era of college basketball, it cannot be a compliment to say they are ‘old-school.’ They are close to being the worst three-point shooting team in the SEC. On 16 threes against the Tide, two makes, equals 12.5% shooting for Ben Howland’s team. Even with the stunningly bad stat, the Bulldogs outshot the Crimson Tide overall; 40.7% to 39.3%.
Crimson Tide shooters were again off, outside the arc. The Tide made 27.6% of its 29 threes. Had Alabama not been outstanding at the foul line, making 24-of-28, the game would not have been close.
The main difference in the game was the physically dominating play of the Bulldogs. Mississippi State won the rebound battle, 43-32, including 18 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second-chance points. The Bulldogs were plus-5 in second-chance points and plus-9 in points off turnovers. The Tide turned the ball over 15 times and close to half were unforced errors.
Against a good team on the road, the preceding paragraph can’t be the game story. But it was. Mississippi State deserved to win and despite a last-minute push, the Crimson Tide did not. The home team led by eight points with 1:34 left. The Tide cut it to one at the 3.7-second mark. Never giving up is to be commended, but that does not change the fact the Crimson Tide lost to a team it should have been good enough to beat.
Speaking after the game, Nate Oats said,
"It is disappointing. I thought we had a team that could compete for a league title. Just not quite as tough as we need to be to compete for a league title at this point. Maybe they’ll figure it, maybe it’ll come. We’ve gotta get tougher."
What is next for Alabama Basketball?
Next, Will Wade and LSU come to Tuscaloosa. Saturday afternoon, the Bengal Tigers lost to what had been a slumping Arkansas team. The Tigers are now 15-2, with wins over Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida in between their two losses. The other loss was in Auburn, by 15 points to Bruce Pearl’s team.
However, the unscrupulous Will Wade has built this season’s team, they are better than Mississippi State. Winning in Starkville would have been important, but in January, good teams don’t have must-win games. The Crimson Tide has one Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa.
If Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide don’t run Will Wade out of Coleman Coliseum, some of us Bama Hoops fans are going to be more than disappointed.