Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Freshmen shine in No. 24 Alabama men’s basketball’s big win over Mississippi State

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama forward Mohamed Wague (#11) celebrates after a dunk against Mississippi State.

During the chaotic offseason for Alabama men’s basketball, in which the program lost four starters and all three assistant coaches, there was a lot of noise surrounding the coaches and the high-profile transfers who would fill the vacant spots. Much less attention went to the incoming freshmen coming straight out of high school.  

In Alabama’s 99-67 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday night, the young guns of the Crimson Tide showed that they are just as deserving of the spotlight as anyone on the team. 

Freshman forward Jarin Stevenson, who just turned 18 this past October, led the offensive charge for the Crimson Tide in the first half, scoring 11 of his career-high 14 points. The North Carolina native was a perfect 4-4 from the field in the first half, with three of those coming from long range.  

Stevenson, originally a member of the incoming class of 2024, reclassified to the 2023 class to join the Alabama program a bit sooner.  

Along with Stevenson, freshman forward Mouhamed Dioubate, or “Mo-D,” as his teammates refer to him, tallied 7 points in the first half. He finished with 14 points and a career-high nine rebounds.  

“I thought this was the best game he’s played,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said of Dioubate  postgame. “He’s getting more comfortable and he’s getting tougher.” 

In addition to the offensive showcase from the freshmen, the first half was arguably the best half of defense this Alabama team has played all year. Though fouls were aplenty, the Crimson Tide effectively shut down the Bulldogs’ offense in the final six minutes of the half. 

The Bulldogs did not score a field goal for the final five minutes of the half and would not score again until more than 17 minutes into the second half. They also failed to make a 3-pointer for the entire half, going 0-7.  

Alabama ended the first half on a 29-8 run to take a commanding 47-24 lead into the break. 

The second half saw another freshman come into the mix for Alabama as forward Sam Walters scored all 8 of his points in the half on 2-4 shooting from downtown.  

Out of Alabama’s 99 total points, 36 came from freshmen.  

“We’ve been preparing for this moment,” Stevenson said postgame. “We were prepared, and it shows.”  

While the young Crimson Tide core stepped up in a big way, the veterans didn’t let them have all the fun.  

Guard Mark Sears led the Crimson Tide in scoring with 21 points, going a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line. This is the 13th time Sears has scored at least 20 points and the fifth straight game he has done so.  

Guard Aaron Estrada, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Saturday, finished with a near double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds.  

While the second half was much more competitive than the first, the Bulldogs’ disastrous stretch to end the first half created a deficit that proved insurmountable.   

As the clock wound down to around a minute remaining in regulation, the Crimson Tide held on to a comfortable 94-62 lead.  

Although a win was certain, the crowd in Coleman Coliseum became restless as chants demanding the appearance of a certain player grew louder by the second.  

“We want Kai! We want Kai!”  

Sophomore guard Kai Spears received the team’s last remaining scholarship spot this past week after joining the team as a walk-on last season.  

As Spears tore off his crimson warmups and checked into the game, the crowd grew even more restless.  

Spears immediately got to work, driving toward the rim and drawing a foul. He hit both free throws.  

During Alabama’s final offensive possession, Sears lined up and drained a 3-pointer as Coleman Coliseum delivered a standing ovation to the Pittsburgh native.   

He scored a career-high 5 points in just one minute and two seconds of play.  

“I’m happy for him,” Oats said. “He’s a kid that works really hard, that is all about the team.”  

This win keeps the Crimson Tide firmly atop the SEC with an 8-1 record in conference play.  

After a dominant and even heartwarming night of basketball in Tuscaloosa, it will be back to business this week for the Crimson Tide as Alabama prepares for round two of the Iron Bowl of Basketball.  

Alabama will travel to Auburn on Wednesday to take on the No. 16 Tigers in what is sure to be another gritty battle between the bitter rivals. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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