STARKVILLE, Miss. — Coming down the stretch, the Alabama basketball team had a shot.
If that shot was beyond the arc, though, it wasn’t going to be good enough.
In a defensive struggle, Alabama held Mississippi State down but couldn’t capitalize offensively in a 67-63 loss that evened the season series against the Bulldogs.
Alabama led 54-53 on a John Petty 3-pointer with 5:04 remaining, but stalled at that point as MSU went on a 12-4 run to pull ahead by seven points with 30 seconds remaining. That gave State enough of a cushion to win despite missing four of seven foul shots in the final 30 seconds.
“They did a terrific job of defending us, they were physical and we didn’t help ourselves by the way we took care of the ball in the first half,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.
“If you shoot 22 3’s, not all 22 are going to be good looks but I thought about 15 of them were pretty good,” Johnson said. “Those were makeable shots. We can make those shots.
“They were 2-for-19 from 3-point range themselves. Our defense held up. We just weren’t very good offensively.”
Mississippi State blocked seven shots and handled Alabama roughly around the goal, enhancing the Crimson Tide’s perimeter struggles.
“We knew they didn’t have a lot of shooters on the floor and that Petty was the main one so we sagged off No. 12 (Dazon Ingram) and No. 10 (Herbert Jones),” said MSU guard Nick Weatherspoon. “We just pressed up on Sexton and tried to force the other guys to make shots.”
The first half had plenty of defense, plenty of whistles and a notable absence of 3-point shots. Mississippi State was 1-for-12 from beyond the arc in the half, while Alabama was 0-for-7, staying in the game thanks to 14 free throws. Neither team led by more than five points, with MSU holding a 30-28 edge at intermission.
“Our defense is why we win today,” said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. “Alabama is a sure NCAA Tournament team, so this is a big win for our guys.”
Nick Weatherspoon led Mississippi State (18-6, 6-5 SEC) with 18 points, while his older brother Quindarry Weatherspoon added 13.
Collin Sexton led Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) with 18 points, although he was 0-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc. No Crimson Tide (or Mississippi State) player made more than one 3-point shot in the game.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.