Alabama claims third top-25 victory with win over Bulldogs


CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

It looked like it was happening again.

After building up another halftime lead, this time a 12-point advantage over No. 22 Mississippi State, Alabama appeared poised to let another win slip away.

Trailing by just three with 30 seconds left, the Bulldogs gained possession of the ball after Alabama was called for a traveling violation. A perfect opportunity to tie the game appeared when Mississippi State’s Tyson Carter caught a pass in the corner. But the three-point shot that Carter launched never reached the basket. It was swatted out of bounds by Alabama’s Kira Lewis, who raced over to prevent another collapse with an outstretched hand.

“He’s [Carter] burned us on that play before,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We actually showed him at our shoot around this morning from last year making that same three on us and we got hung up on the screen. Fortunately, Kira did a nice job of chasing him down and using his athleticism. That was a huge block for us.”

After numerous fouls and free throws, Alabama eventually clinched an 83-79 victory over Mississippi State.

“Give them credit,” Johnson said of Mississippi State. “This is a tough, nasty hard-nosed team. They play the right way. Fortunately, we got away from them a little bit in the first half, built a lead so it was an uphill battle for them. Then when they cut the lead in the second half, give our guys credit for persevering and [being] resilient.”

Not only was it the Crimson Tide’s third win over a ranked opponent in Coleman Coliseum this season, it was its seventh straight home victory over a ranked team, stretching back to a win over No. 5 Texas A&M in December 2017.

“I think we have a great home court advantage,” Riley Norris said. “Our fans came out really big tonight and our student section was really loud and really into the game. That plays an important role.”

Alabama pulled off the win despite posting its worst performance of the season from beyond the arc. Although the Crimson Tide went 1-of-15 (7 %) from outside, it made its money in the paint. Overall, 54 of Alabama’s 83 points came inside. The Crimson Tide’s dominance inside started early, and it started with Donta Hall. The big man scored 12 of his 19 points in the first half, many of which came on ferocious dunks that encouraged the sizable home crowd to come alive.

Poor shooting was not limited to Alabama. Mississippi State went 3-of-19 from downtown, also posting its worst three-point shooting performance of the season.

Hall finished as Alabama’s leading scorer, but John Petty Jr. and Norris both came off the bench to finish in double-digits, with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

“It helped spark our bench,” Johnson said of their performances. “They [bench] had 34 points tonight, which is always good for us. Specifically Petty, he’s showing just how much he’s improved by not just being a three-point shooter. We ran four or five post plays for him tonight and he was relentless on the post and made some really good decisions for us.”

The Bulldogs were dealt a blow late in the first half, when Nick Weatherspoon landed awkwardly after attempting to deliver a devastating dunk. Weatherspoon stayed on the ground clutching his knee for several minutes before being carried into the locker room. He did not return in the second half.

Alabama travel to play Auburn in an in-state battle at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday.