AP photo by Jim Lytle|
Alabama’s Justin Tubbs (3) shoots past Mississippi State’s Charles Rhodes (23) during the second half.
No title for Tide
Road loss sticks Bama at No. 5 in SEC West
By Josh Cooper
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State never lined up for the usual postgame handshake following its 91-67 drubbing of Alabama at home.
Instead, players mobbed each other in the middle of the court, melting into a pile of MSU maroon and white. The Bulldogs calmed down only long enough to cut down the nets.
After all, all this is what you do when you win a share of the SEC Western Division title.
Mississippi State (17-12, 8-8 SEC) tied with rival Ole Miss for the championship, but the Bulldogs will get the top seed for this week’s SEC tournament, which begins Thursday in Atlanta.
On the other side, Alabama (20-10, 7-9) lived the worst of all possible scenarios in its final regular-season game. A win would’ve given the Crimson Tide a share of the Western Division crown, but instead, Alabama will enter the tournament as the West’s fifth-seeded team.
Head coach Mark Gottfried said Alabama will “wipe the slate” as it heads to Atlanta to play Kentucky in Thursday’s opening round.
But Alabama’s slate may have too much tarnish to get it completely clean.
The loss damaged the CrimsonTide’s possibilities for an NCAA tournament berth by giving Alabama a sub-.500 league record.
And without hobbled point guard Ronald Steele, who didn’t play Sunday, Alabama is struggling heading into postseason.
“It’s very frustrating for us,” said Alabama’s Richard Hendrix, an Athens High graduate who finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
“It has been such a long season with so many ups and downs. There are a lot of things you can’t control. The frustrating thing is that there are things that you can control on the court, but we’re just not getting it done.”
Although Mississippi State outrebounded Alabama only 39-36 in favor of Mississippi State, the Bulldogs beat the Crimson Tide handily in several “hustle” categories.
First, MSU had 44 points around the basket in comparison to the Crimson Tide’s 28. In the second-chance points, the Bulldogs had 22 to Alabama’s 15. In fast-break points, MSU had 10 to the Crimson Tide’s four.
Alabama’s Jermareo Davidson finished with 16 points but just five rebounds. Sharpshooting guard Mykal Riley was only 1-of-2 from 3-point range as part of a seven-point day.
Some of this could be blamed on Hendrix getting two quick fouls in the first four minutes of the game. At that point the Crimson Tide was up 10-5 and seemed to be dictating the pace of the game.
But with Hendrix out, Alabama lost command on the low post, and Mississippi State took advantage, gaining a 41-29 halftime lead.
“The team knows I bring a physical mentality especially on the inside. With me in foul trouble it hurt our team,” Hendrix said. “I just have to play smarter.”
With Hendrix back in the game to start the second half, the Tide managed to reassert itself and find its offensive game.
Alabama went on a 12-2 run in the first three minutes to cut MSU’s advantage to 43-41. But at the 16:53 mark, Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury called a timeout.
From that point on, MississippiState outscored the Tide 41-9 to go ahead 82-50 with 4:33 to play.
“Coach called timeout and told us we had to pick it up,” Mississippi State forward Jamont Gordon said. “He said the game wasn’t over and we came out and started making plays and knocking down shots.”
SEC tournament bracket
Thursday’s first round
Alabama vs. Kentucky, noon (WZDX-54)
South Carolina vs. Arkansas, 2:15 p.m. (WZDX-54)
Georgia vs. Auburn, 6:30 p.m. (WAMY-TV)
LSU vs. Tennessee, 8:45 p.m. (WZDX-54, WAMY-TV)
Friday’s second round
Mississippi State vs. Alabama/Kentucky winner, noon (WZDX-54)
Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas/
South Carolina winner, 2:15 p.m. (WZDX-54)
Florida vs. Georgia/Auburn winner, 6:30 p.m. (WAMY-TV)
Ole Miss vs. LSU/
Tennessee winner, 8:45 p.m. (WZDX-54, WAMY-TV)
First semifinal, noon (WZDX-54)
Second semifinal, 2:15 p.m. (WZDX-54)
Championship game, noon (WHNT-19)
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