TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama men’s basketball team outscored Mississippi State 14-4 over the game’s final six-plus minutes to pull out a 71-62 victory over Mississippi State in front of a sellout Coleman Coliseum crowd on Saturday night. With the win, the Tide improved to 13-7 on the season and 6-2 in Southeastern Conference play, which marks its best start in league play since the 2012-13 campaign.
“This was a hard fought victory for us tonight,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “We had stretches where we really looked like a good basketball team and then we had stretches where we were playing around with the basketball. A couple of fast break opportunities we didn’t convert and that is one of the reasons why we shot 32 percent from the field. But the flip side of that is we made our free throws tonight and this was a great night for us to make them.
“We have a lot of work to do, give Mississippi State credit. I told our team they are a much better basketball team then the one we played the first time. So fortunately, we were able to battle. We didn’t rebound the ball well tonight and that is problematic. But it keeps us focused and humble. We will get back to the drawing board on Monday, they have earned a day off (Sunday), and we will see what happens in the next one.”
The Tide set season highs in free throws attempted (36), free throws made (31) and free throw percentage (86 percent) en route to the nine-point victory. Redshirt freshman Dazon Ingram, who entered the contest as a 60-percent free throw shooter, went 12-of-12 from the line on his way to 15 points. Freshman Braxton Key led the Tide with 19 points while adding nine rebounds. Junior Riley Norris added 13 points, while senior Bola Olaniyan had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Alabama got out to a slow start including a three-minute stretch without a field goal. After trailing 13-12 midway through the first half, the Tide took its first lead of the night, 17-15, on a Riley Norris three-pointer with 8:10 to play. The teams then traded baskets with neither gaining more than a three-point lead. Alabama ended the half with a 10-2 run over the final 2:50 to turn a 24-27 deficit into a 34-29 lead at the break.
The Tide went a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes and outrebounded the Bulldogs, 20-17. Alabama held Mississippi State (13-7, 4-4 SEC) to just 35 percent shooting, but struggled itself, shooting just 38 percent from the field and turning the ball over nine times.
Alabama kept up the momentum out of the break with a 7-0 run over the first 3:37 of the second half, but then went cold and failed to make a field goal for nearly five minutes. The Bulldogs took advantage, using a 17-5 run over a span of 4:14 to take a 58-57 lead with 6:05 to play. However, Key immediately answered with a three-point basket that began a run of 13 consecutive points by Alabama to take control of the game.
The Tide stayed perfect when holding the opposition to 62 points or less, improving to 12-0 in such contests. Alabama’s defense collected seven blocks and scored 23 points off 18 Mississippi Staate turnovers.
Lamar Peter led Mississippi State with 13 points, while Schnider Herard ended with 12.
Alabama will travel to Arkansas for the lone meeting between the schools this year on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The Tide, which is 3-1 on the road in conference play, will tipoff against the Razorbacks at 6 p.m. CT on SEC Network.
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