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Bulldogs suffer 67-50 loss on road to the Tide

February 26, 2012

Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury, left photo, shows his emotion during Saturday's game. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Mississippi State’s NCAA tournament hopes were dealt a blow on Saturday night when Alabama's Trevor Releford buried a 3-point basket coming out of the locker room at the half.

That burst of momentum helped for the Crimson Tide to a 67-50 win over the Bulldogs. 
Mississippi State (19-10 overall, 6-8 Southeastern Conference) entered the contest a game behind Alabama (19-9, 8-6), LSU and Tennessee for the No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament, desperately fighting for the much needed first round bye, and perhaps more importantly, the Bulldogs needed a win to save their sinking RPI which had dropped to 62 prior to tip.

“I don’t worry about any of that,” said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. “If you win enough, you get in.”

While the loss is disheartening to many, the Bulldogs did have the opportunity to give themselves a chance to grab the victory.

In the first half, MSU controlled the flow of the game. It matched Alabama shot for shot and even held a lead heading into the closing seconds of the first half when the game took a crucial turn for the Bulldogs.

With .4 seconds Dee Bost fouled Releford on a 3-point attempt. The Bama guard calmly stepped to the line and made his three free-throw attempts, tying the game at 25-25 and killing State’s momentum.

“I thought we took the last play of the half into the locker room, and we came out and played the first 5 minutes of the second half just like that,” said Stansbury. “We went in at halftime, it wasn’t a very smart play by Dee and we were hanging our heads. They hit three 3s in the first 3 or 4 minutes of the second half and we were battling from that. That was basically the game.”

Alabama exited the locker room and quickly took a five-point lead after Releford picked up three of his 10 points and Brian Bryant dribble the ball off his foot leading to an easy transition bucket for the Crimson Tide.

“That was a big shot by Releford to start the second half to give us a little bit of a lead going into the press,” said Alabama head coach Anthony Grant.

As Stansbury indicated, it was all over from there.

Mississippi State saw a five-point deficit quickly turn to 10, then 15 and it simply couldn’t recover.

Arnett Moultrie had 25 points in the Starkville meeting between the programs, but it was a much different story in Tuscaloosa. The junior forward drew the double team virtually every time he touched the ball leading to a frustrating night for Moultrie and the Bulldogs.

“I’ve been frustrated but I don’t think it is affecting my game, only in the losing column,” said Moultrie who scored just seven points to go with eight rebounds.

Stansbury said every time Moultrie caught it, he was hit with a double-team. 
“He got a bunch of catches and they ran in and doubled him," Stansbury said. "They played a lot of zone and kept him from catching that ball some.”

The final score indicates the game was a runaway by the Tide, Stansbury simply reflects on the one play where the tide turned.

“The first half we didn’t play great but we had the game at our pace and we were really defending them,” he said. “We held them to just 22 points until we gave up the three points right there before halftime, just a huge, huge bad play.”

While Stansbury may not look at the big picture and the NCAA Tournament bubble, Moultrie does.

“It is real disappointing because I just see it slipping away right before our eyes,” he said. “All we need is one win and I believe we can get on a winning streak.”

Mississippi State returns to the hardwood on Wednesday when it takes on a struggling South Carolina team in Columbia, S.C.

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