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January 16, 2013

Alabama shoots light out, beats Bulldogs

STARKVILLE, Miss. | Some things in the sports world Wednesday were hard to believe, like the story about Manti Te'o's imaginary girlfriend.

Then there were the things that were downright impossible to believe, like the Alabama men's basketball team shooting nearly 70 percent from the field for an entire half.

It actually happened, though, in front of 5,500 or so stunned witnesses at the Humphrey Coliseum as UA blew out Mississippi State 75-43 to take its second straight Southeastern Conference win.

"Tonight the focus for us was defense," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "We felt we could have some success pressing them, upping the tempo and it worked for us."

Mississippi State (7-8, 2-1 SEC) actually led the game 19-18 with 7:30 remaining in the first half, but the Crimson Tide totally took control at that point, outscoring the Bulldogs 12-3 the rest of the half, then starting the second half on an explosive 15-0 run thanks to five straight 3-point baskets, the first three by Trevor Lacey, followed by one each by Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph.

"We just tried to go out and be aggressive and lot our defense create our offense," Randolph said.

"They made every shot they put up," Bulldogs guard Jalen Steele said. "We closed out on them and they still made it. They made every shot, every layup, everything.

"We needed to slow down. We were going with the flow, but we were going with their flow."

Trevor Releford, the starting point guard for UA, was dressed for the game but did not play because of an ankle sprain, but Alabama was able to find plenty of offense in his absence. Randolph led four Alabama scorers in double figures with 18 points, while sophomore Nick Jacobs had his first double-double of the season, recording career highs in points (16) and rebounds (11). Rodney Cooper scored 16 points for UA, and Lacey had 11.

"The guards made it easy for us," Jacobs said. "We made five 3-pointers to start the second half, and that opened things wide open for us."

Jacobs also said he is playing his way back into shape, having dropped from 276 pounds in preseason to 263.

Alabama (10-6, 2-1 SEC) got off to a slow start, scoring just two points in the first four minutes. But UA gradually seemed to adjust, closing the half on a 12-3 run by limiting Mississippi State to just one basket, a 3-pointer, in the final 7:31 of the half. Randolph had 11 first-half points for the Crimson Tide, while Jacobs added eight off the bench.

In the second half, Alabama led by as many as 37 points.

Alabama returns to SEC play Saturday, hosting Texas A&M. The status of Releford, who was diagnosed with a "mild high-ankle sprain" according to Grant, remains uncertain.

TideSports.com: Football recruiting chat transcript

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.


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