By MATTHEW STEVENS
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Mississippi State said they were better than the last time they’d seen Alabama less than a month ago in Starkville.
They said they were more mature, ready to handle the pressure on the road and the result would be different.
None of those things turned into reality Wednesday night as MSU was suffocated by an aggressive Alabama defensive effort in a 75-61 blowout loss.
“I thought our team was really focused in terms of what we had to do transition defense wise and things that we needed to be able to take away from them,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said.
The Bulldogs (11-10, 3-4 in Southeastern Conference) allowed the 10,701 in attendance to carry the momentum by allowing 16 second-chance points and 14 more off MSU turnovers.
“It just seemed like would chip away at them but then they kept making big shots and making big runs like you’re supposed to at home,” MSU senior guard Ravern Johnson said.
In a battle of former McDonald’s All-American’s on both sides, Alabama forward JaMychal Green dominated the paint with his 18th career double-double effort season with 15 points, 11 rebounds along with four assists and two blocks while Renardo Sidney was easily forgotten less than 90 seconds into the contest.
The sophomore from Jackson, who has struggled with foul trouble since entering conference play, picked up his second foul with 18:41 left in the opening half. The 6-foot-10 forward sat next to Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury the whole first half and finish the contest with just 11 points in 19 minutes of action.
“Would I rather have him on the bench or on the court – I think the answer to that is very obvious,” Stansbury said. “Ever since that moment, for the rest of the half, we weren’t very good.”
Alabama, who is now 12-0 at home this season, has held every opponent to no more than 66 points in Tuscaloosa during the winning streak. It is Alabama’s first 6-1 start in league play since the 2004-05 season when they received a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Conversely, Mississippi State has now lost six games away from home by a double-digit margin and have failed to win in each of three trips to Tuscaloosa.
“All those thing happen when you’re on the road,” Stansbury said. “You just hope you don’t do it.”
The Crimson Tide would be paced in scoring by forward Tony Mitchell as the career-high 23 points from the 6-foot-6 forward was another major reason the home team dominated the points in the paint category to the tune of 35-22. The sophomore has now poured in double figures in every game this season except for a low-scoring victory against Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 15.
Wednesday night would mark the tenth time State has been out-rebounded in a contest this season and the third time in its last four outings.
It also highlighted the sixth time Mississippi State has been beaten by double digits in the 2010-11 season.
The only time MSU looked to show signs of life in the second half was when they brought the deficit to 10 with less than 8 minutes on the clock but a turnaround post move by Green in the face of Sidney not only created an old-fashioned three-point play but got State’s 270-pound big man whistled for his third foul of the contest.
From that moment, Mississippi State never cut the Crimson Tide’s lead below 11.
Alabama’s offensive execution called for four starters to fill the box score with double-figure scoring nights and included a second-half stretch where they made 55.6 percent of their field goals and four-of-five from beyond the three-point arc.
“They’re managing the game offensively right with Green and Mitchell is a guy that can do some things down low now,” Stansbury said.
Mississippi State junior point guard Dee Bost, who was booed by the Coleman Coliseum faithful every time he touched the ball, led the Bulldogs with 18 points but had a season-high five giveaways that consistently led to easy buckets for Crimson Tide.
Alabama got the raucous environment going early with an 18-8 run to start the game. The Tide ended the half with a three-pointer by Alabama guard Charvez Davis nailed at the first-half buzzer to send Stansbury storming to the visitors locker room.
“I just thought we never got going all night,” Stansbury said. “We just turned it over way too much in the first half with 12 turnovers. We got shook a little bit when they jumped on us early.”
The junior guard, whose season debut after a 14-game suspension was against Alabama on Jan. 8 in Starkville, combined to shoot 11-for-33 in the pair of losses this season to the Tide.
“Give them the credit because they made the plays and played the kind of aggressive defense you need to play to win,” Bost said. “I guess we just didn’t play very hard.”
With the victory, Alabama (14-7, 6-1) not only maintains its position atop the Western Division by two games over Arkansas but remain the only SEC school with one conference loss in the 2010-11 season.
“You’ve got to be tougher with the ball and have to be able to handle the pressure,” Bost said. “That’s mainly on me making mistakes.”
Mississippi State will look to end its road success this season when they travel to LSU Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip at the Pete Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La.