No. 2 Alabama narrowly defeats Mississippi State 66-63

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

Sometimes you have to be reminded you aren’t invincible, even if you reign victorious. 

On Wednesday, No. 2 Alabama defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 66-63 in a gritty, come-from-behind effort sparked by forwards Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney. 

Prior to the game, the Crimson Tide (18-2, 8-0 SEC) had amassed a 147-point positive differential in SEC play — a mark that has propelled them to first place in the conference. 

Tonight, that number only moved up three digits courtesy of some inspired play by Mississippi State coach Chris Jans’ first-year squad.  

Leading the way for the Bulldogs was senior forward Tolu Smith, who scored 10 first-half points on 5-for-7 shooting en route to a 15-point, five-rebound performance. 

Smith, a first-team All-SEC candidate, gave Alabama center Charles Bediako all he could handle down low, forcing the Brampton, Ontario,  native into some early foul trouble.  

On the flip side, it was Dom Welch and Brandon Miller who led the Crimson Tide in the scoring department at the break with six points apiece.  

“It was great to see some shots drop for Dom [Welch],” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “We know he’s a shooter, we’ve been trying to get him some minutes.” 

At the half, Mississippi State found themselves in the driver’s seat, leading 36-29. 

However, it didn’t take long for the nation’s second-ranked team to kick it into high gear. 

Through 20 minutes, the freshman sensation Clowney was 0-for-4 from the field. That didn’t last long. 

After an inauspicious start, the 6-foot-10, Roebuck, South Carolina, native finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, drilling 7-of-8 shots at the free throw line.  

Following Clowney was his counterpart, Miller, who finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting while grabbing six boards.  

While it wasn’t pretty, the Crimson Tide was too much to handle in close game down the stretch in Coleman Coliseum, sealing the game with some timely baskets from Rylan Griffen, Jahvon Quinerly and Miller.  

“If you’re going to win an SEC championship, you’re going to need to win some games when you don’t play your best,” Oats said. 

For Quinerly, it was yet another steady night in the backcourt, finishing with 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting while dishing out four assists and notching four rebounds.  

A senior from Hackensack, New Jersey, the 6-foot-1 guard continues to up his play, posting double-digit scoring numbers in three of his last four games.  

“[Quinerly] was huge,” Oats said. “We needed somebody to step up and score the ball. We needed him tonight.” 

After a gut-check performance at home, Oats’ team will now set their sights on a road matchup with the University of Oklahoma Sooners in the SEC/Big 12 challenge.  

Tipoff for No. 2 Alabama and Oklahoma is set for Saturday, Jan. 28th, at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN.