Sunday, April 18

No. 6 Alabama tries again for SEC title in the state of Mississippi


Sixth-ranked Alabama blew its first shot at the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship.

Crimson Tide will get another shot at its first SEC title since 2002 when it faces Mississippi State on Saturday in Starkville, Mississippi.

Alabama (18-6, 13-2) fell apart in the second half of an 81-66 loss at No. 20 Arkansas on Wednesday.

“Arkansas beat us,” said Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats. “They were ready to play. It seemed like they were getting every loose ball.”

The Tide committed 32 fouls, the season high, and was outscored by 24 points at the free throw line, throwing just eight free throws compared to 43 for the Razorbacks. It was the most free throws by an Alabama opponent this season.

“On some of those (fouls), our guys were late and didn’t focus on what they should have been doing,” Oats said. “We keep sending them to the free throw line.

“We have to defend without fouling. We can’t put them on the line 43 times and hope to win a game.”

Alabama’s Herbert Jones and Jaden Shackelford fouled and John Petty Jr. was ejected with 1:01 remaining after being called up for his second technique of the game.

“I told the guys after the game that I thought there were a lot of guys worried about umpiring,” Oats said. “If you worry about things that you can’t control, then you won’t be very good at things that you do have control over.”

Alabama held a six-point lead early in the second half, but was outscored 42-21 the rest of the way.

“Going into the state of Mississippi, we have to do a lot better, play harder and focus more,” Oats said. “We can’t get over it like I thought (on Wednesday).”

The Bulldogs (13-11, 7-8) have won two in a row after a midseason knockdown. The state of Mississippi ended Ole Miss’s four-game winning streak on February 20 and defeated South Carolina 69-48 on Wednesday.

“Our confidence is good,” said Tolu Smith, who had 13 rebounds and nine points against the Gamecocks. “Going through adversity in the middle of the season during that slump is good for our team as a unit. Being together as one as we go through ups and downs is good for this team to take on big games against Alabama and head into the conference.” tournament.”

The Tide defeated the Bulldogs 81-73 on January 23 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In its last four victories, Mississippi State held its opponents to an average of 54.8 points and a collective 32.9 percent shooting from the floor.

“We have to keep playing together and keep playing hard,” said DJ Stewart Jr., who scored 15 points against South Carolina. “We have to keep this going.”

The state of Mississippi held South Carolina to 29 percent shooting and 19 percent from three-point range. The Bulldogs rebounded the Gamecocks 49-24, their highest rebound margin against an SEC opponent since 2002.

“I thought our defense was fantastic again,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “I love the bounce.”

The Bulldogs had 16 assists in 24 baskets after having 15 assists in 25 baskets against Ole Miss.

“Back to back games where we’ve really done a good job sharing the ball,” Howland said. “Everybody was doing it, and that was really important. It was a very good team win.”

– Field level media




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