Alabama 83, Mississippi State 79: Crimson Tide uses inner strength to lock down win

Jan 29, 2019; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Galin Smith (30) dunks the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2019; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Galin Smith (30) dunks the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

By Chris DePew
TideFans.com Staff
Jan. 29, 2019

Alabama got outrebounded for a second consecutive game, missed all but one 3-point attempt and shot just 61 percent from the foul line but somehow the Crimson Tide found a way to hold off No. 22 Mississippi State 83-79 at Coleman Coliseum.

What did we learn today?: Bama is going to get to the rim or die trying. After scoring 48 points in the paint Saturday against undersized Baylor, inside scoring figured to be a tougher challenge against the Bulldogs, who regularly play three forwards 6-foot-10 or taller. But Alabama doubled down on going to the rim and scored a season-high 54 points in the paint. MSU did block six shots, but Bama attacked the rim intelligently, passing the ball crisply in close quarters instead of trying to force low-percentage shots over a sea of maroon jerseys. And when it wasn’t finishing baskets, Bama was drawing fouls and making just enough free throws (22-for-36) to get by, thanks in part to an even worse night at the line for MSU (12-for-22).

What was the best part of the game?: John Petty going back to grinding. His hot streak went cold in Waco and didn’t magically reappear with him returning home. Petty missed his first three field goals and was scoreless until a pair of free throws with 2:48 left in the first half. But he used that breakthrough to will himself back into the game, scoring six by halftime, 13 for the game and sinking four of his last six shots from the floor, including the Tide’s only 3-pointer in 15 attempts.

Who was the star?: Donta Hall ran into foul trouble, which has been rare for him this season, but made the most of his 23 minutes, going 7-for-9 from the floor for 19 points and a handful of viral video-worthy dunks. He also had seven rebounds, two blocks and two assists, plus managed to keep himself in the game and contributing on both ends late in a tight game without getting a fifth foul.

What were the biggest concerns?: Once again the final minutes of the game turned into a white-knuckled nightmare. An 11-point lead with 4:00 left got cut down to as little as three points four different times. All the old familiar hits came back too: playing too fast and loose with the ball, inbounding failures, missed free throws, failure to defend the opposing player with the hot hand. At least this one went down as a narrow escape a la the Kentucky game instead of a bitter collapse to join Georgia State and Texas A&M. But a repeat of Tuesday’s strange performance will mean a double digit loss for the rematch in Starkville in two weeks.

What’s next?: The first edition of Alabama-Auburn for 2019 comes Saturday night down on the Plains. Tipoff on ESPN2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Central.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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