Alabama kept Mississippi State off-balance and out of rhythm all night, running the Bulldogs ragged and cracking the 90-point barrier for a fifth consecutive game in a 90-69 blowout win at Coleman Coliseum.
What did we learn today?: Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, who enchanted sailors only to lead them to doom when they shipwrecked on the rocks, Bama’s fast-forward offense sets a pace too tempting for even the most buttoned-down teams to resist. MSU has made its bones as an efficient-but-grinding offense, built to pound the ball into the paint and take advantage of a towering frontcourt that put them first in the SEC in rebounding. But as obvious as the scouting report was, there were the Bulldogs taking questionable shots early in the shot clock and neglecting the physical play that could have broken down the Crimson Tide. Ben Howland got State refocused after halftime, but with 6-10 forward Reggie Perry in foul trouble much of the night the momentum never stuck. Once Perry fouled out with 6:56 remaining, any lingering resistance collapsed and the lead swelled from 12 to 21 points.
While MSU couldn’t match Alabama’s quickness, the Tide wasn’t afraid to get physical. Bama came within a basket of matching State for points in the paint, and more importantly attacked the rim repeatedly to get to the line, going 24-for-34. Galin Smith scored a season-high 11 points and Alex Reese grabbed five rebounds and played maybe his best defense of the season, even before considering his career-high three blocks. And while giveaways were virtually even, the Tide had a 21-9 advantage in points off turnovers. Bama’s effort was superior in every phase of the game.
What was the best part of the game?: John Petty killed off any lingering doubts about his ability to create his own shot with a devastating pair of crossover moves that led to open baskets. One got Perry wrong-footed in the opening minutes of the second half, clearing the way for the second of Petty’s four 3-pointers. Later he rocked 6-foot-11 center Abdul Ado to sleep before unleashing a 17-footer over the big man. Petty scored a team-high 18 points while shooting 60 percent from the floor. He now has scored in double figures 10 of his last 11 games.
Who was the star?: Kira Lewis was right behind Petty with 17 points and also had team highs with eight rebounds and four assists, a solid bounce back after struggling with his shot in the loss at Florida. His cuts to the basket looked faster and his finishing moves were more decisive.
What were the biggest concerns?: Jaden Shackelford gave Bama 10 points off the bench, but his shooting form continues to be the Crimson Tide’s most unpredictable from game to game. Against MSU he was 2-for-10 from the floor and didn’t make a 2-pointer, although he did draw five foul shots. The freshman guard can get all the shots he wants in Nate Oats’ offense, but he has to start getting a little pickier about the shots he takes.
What’s next?: The first of back-to-back games against Top 25 teams is a Saturday trip to No. 14 Kentucky. Tipoff from Rupp Arena is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central on ESPN.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris