TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After a tough road loss to Georgia over the weekend, Alabama rebounded with a double-digit win at home over Mississippi State 80-61 on Wednesday night.
The sparsely populated crowds at Coleman Coliseum have become customary, but the wire-to-wire finishes have been rare for Alabama this season. This victory gives Alabama an 8-8 record overall, a 2-1 conference record and adds to its ongoing 14-game conference home winning streak. Mississippi State falls to 11-5 overall and 1-2 in the SEC after the loss.
The Crimson Tide never trailed in this game, and seemed to play their first complete game against a quality opponent all season. If asked, the Alabama team would say that it was a “team effort,” but really, the win was led by senior Trevor Releford’s shooting prowess. Releford led all scorers with 28 points and was a phenomenal 6-of-9 from 3-point range, going 10-of-13 overall from the field.
“It is definitely fun when you execute as a team and you are doing everything right,” Releford said. “Coach Grant preaches that every day.”
Freshman Shannon Hale pitched in with 12 points and Retin Obasohan had 11 for Alabama, but it was Releford who carried the team. He was riding a personal shooting streak for most of the game. Whenever the senior point guard got the ball with space, he either drove to the basket with clinical efficiency or pulled up for a 3-pointer.
It was Releford’s night: He knew it, his teammates knew it, and so did Mississippi State. Bulldogs head coach Rick Ray said that his team knew Releford was dangerous going into the game, they just failed to stop him.
“Trevor Releford is a good player. It’s not a secret. He’s been playing that way for a while,” Ray said. “We made Releford better by not doing what we were supposed to be doing with our defensive assignments.”
Other than Releford’s aerial display, Alabama showed the willingness to play unselfishly and displayed the desire to finally win a game against a quality opponent after amassing a lead. Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant pointed to the 17 assists that his team earned as a sign that his players were seeking each other out on the court and wouldn’t allow the play to become stagnant.
“They were sharing it and having fun,” Grant said. “From there, we can learn. We can get better in terms of understanding how to close out games, to execute and to continue to move the ball.”
What Grant preaches to his players is consistency: Something that has eluded Alabama this season. Plagued with second-half letdowns throughout the season, this win was a necessary stabilizer, one that could lead to future success for Grant’s team. The Crimson Tide just have to show they can do it on the road - where they haven’t won all year - against another conference adversary.
“As a team, we just have to continue to play every game like that and not fall off the next game,” Releford said. “We have to continue to play as a team at Missouri on Saturday.”