The Alabama men’s basketball team not only beat Mississippi State on Wednesday night, the Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs at their own game.
Alabama rolled to a 90-69 win and did so in large part by outrebounding the taller Bulldogs, one of the NCAA’s best rebounding teams, 42-38.
“It was huge,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said about Alabama’s work on the glass. “It was our No. 1 thing going in. With our health the way it is, we can’t do a lot of rebounding drills in practice so it was a lot of film work, a lot of watching where they would rebound. We challenged them. I thought John Petty did a great job. The first thing he said after the game was ‘Coach, when you watch the film, you won’t see my man get a single offensive rebound.’”
Alabama closed the first half on a 15-6 run and added a 9-2 run to start the second half and take a 51-36 lead. MSU rallied to cut that margin to six points, 58-52, with 12:06 to play.
During a media time out at that point, Oats noted that Alabama’s players were focused on avoiding a redux of their loss at Florida.
“The good thing was the players were all saying the same thing in the huddle,” Oats said. “Referencing back to the Florida game, when we get the lead. They were saying ‘we’ve got to keep the pressure on.’ We didn’t do that there, but we did that tonight.”
“I thought we fixed some problems we had at Florida. We talked a lot about winning the four minutes and the last four minutes of the half and we did that.”
The Alabama offense continued at full throttle. The Crimson Tide has now scored 90 points or more in five straight games, the first time that has happened in program history.
Kira Lewis had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead Alabama. John Petty was the top scorer with 18 points and six rebounds while Galin Smith and Beetle Bolden added 11 points each.
“They started by attacking the rim, helping each other by driving and dishing out,” MSU forward Robert Woodard said. “I thought in the first half, we contested a lot of those shots but in the second half, they happened to hit a lot of those.”
“Alabama was really hard to defend tonight,” said Mississippi State coach Ben Howland. “I thought Lewis and Petty were terrific and Lewis was really a problem because he could penetrate and create with his quickness. Then they spread the floor out and they have very good shooters all over the floor.”
Nick Weatherspoon led all scorers with 20 points for MSU (9-5, 0-2 SEC).
Alabama (8-6, 1-1 SEC) will travel to No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt
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