No. 18 Alabama wins 9th straight, 81-73 over Mississippi St
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — No. 18 Alabama faced down a challenge and kept its winning streak alive, if not the Crimson Tide’s string of blowouts.
Herbert Jones had 17 points and seven assists to help Alabama win its ninth straight game with an 81-73 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night. This one wasn’t decided until the last minute for a team that had won its past three games by an average of 27 points.
“It’s actually good to play some close games,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We had been hitting shots at a pretty high clip and blowing teams out so it’s good to have to execute some late-game stuff.”
The Tide (13-3, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) has won eight consecutive SEC games for the first time since starting league play 8-0 in the 1986-87 season.
This one didn’t come as easily as recent wins over Kentucky, Arkansas and LSU.
The Bulldogs (9-7, 4-4) cut an 11-point second-half deficit down to three in the final minute, but John Petty Jr. answered with a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left.
Petty, the program’s career leader in 3s, made sure ’Bama didn’t have to sweat too much.
“We think every shot he takes is going to go in,” said teammate Alex Reese, who had 11 points. “After the game he told me he should have hit me for one more. I said, ‘No you shouldn’t have.’”
Alabama entered the weekend with a two-game SEC lead.
Freshman guard Joshua Primo scored 16 points and made four first-half 3s for the Tide.
Jones also had four steals and three blocked shots. Petty scored 12 points on four 3-pointers and Jaden Shackelford also had 12 for the Tide.
D.J. Stewart Jr. led Mississippi State with 27 points and Iverson Molinar added 19, but Stewart shot 9 of 21 and Molinar just 5 of 19.
Tolu Smith had eight points and nine rebounds.
Cameron Matthews stole a long inbounds pass and made a layup with 58 seconds left for Mississippi State before Petty’s back-breaking 3.
“I thought our guys really played hard and really played tough,” Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said. “We battled and went after every 50-50 ball with all our might. I think there were a lot of positives today even though we lost the game.”
The home team has won the last eight meetings.
The Tide’s nine-game winning streak marks its longest since opening the 2002-03 season 9-0. That team eventually reached the program’s only No. 1 ranking.
This edition successfully withstood its first late-game challenge since Auburn two weeks earlier.
“It just teaches us to stay together regardless of the scoreboard and learn how to win close games because that’s what’s going to matter most toward the end of the season,” Jones said.
Mississippi State: Bounced back on offense after scoring a paltry 46 points in a loss to rival Mississippi, but still shot just 4 of 14 on 3-pointers.
Alabama: Didn’t cool off much after making an SEC-record 23 3-pointers Tuesday against LSU. The Tide went 14 of 34 from 3-point range and had nine by halftime.
Alabama forward James Rojas missed the game with an unspecified “medical condition,” according to a spokesman. Rojas is averaging 3.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, mostly off the bench.
Alabama hosts Kentucky on Tuesday night, having won the first meeting this season 85-65 at Rupp Arena.
Mississippi State plays another Top 25 team on the road, visiting No. 6 Tennessee on Tuesday night.
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