Season of strife continues for MSU basketball

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Just when Mississippi State thinks it’s found something good to build on, the floor crumbles away. And now it appears the team is crumbling.
Four days after an upset of Florida, the Bulldogs were hammered a second time by Alabama, falling 75-61 in front of 10,771 at Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday.
Familiar, unwelcome themes marked the loss: Early foul trouble for Renardo Sidney, a rash of turnovers, and rebounding issues.
And now, inner turmoil.
Senior guard Ravern Johnson was vanilla in his postgame interview, but he unloaded on coach Rick Stansbury on his Twitter page not long after, eschewing proper punctuation during his mini-rant.
“Starting to see why people Transfer,” Johnson wrote, “you can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game shooters need to move not watch why other coaches get that do not make sense to me.”
Guard Twany Beckham and forward Elgin Bailey both transferred in early January. Johnson’s message was forwarded by Sidney on his Twitter page.
Johnson played all 40 minutes, scoring 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting, including 1 of 4 from 3-point range.
Stansbury didn’t sound overly concerned about the state of his team, which was out-rebounded 39-25 and committed 12 first-half turnovers. Bama (14-7, 6-1 SEC) also had 12 offensive boards and scored 16 second-chance points.
It was similar to the Jan. 8 meeting, when Alabama won 75-57 in Starkville.
“It wasn’t as bad as it was last time, so it must be better,” Stansbury said. “We were on the road this time, too, so it must be better.”
It sure didn’t look better.
Alabama never trailed, opening up a 20-10 lead and taking a 35-22 edge into halftime. Sidney was whistled for two quick fouls and played only a minute in the first half.
The Tide went on a 10-0 run early in the second half and led by as many as 18 points. State (11-10, 3-4) cut it to nine points, at 53-44 with 11 minutes, 14 seconds left, but never could mount a rally.
“They made big runs and knocked down a lot of shots, so give credit to them,” point guard Dee Bost said. “We just didn’t play hard, I guess.”
Bost, who made his season debut in the first meeting, didn’t have rust as an excuse Wednesday. He committed five turnovers – four in the first half – and finished with 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting. He had seven assists.
Alabama earned its first season sweep of MSU since 2005 and further asserted itself as the team to beat in the Western Division. The Crimson Tide was paced by Tony Mitchell’s 23 points, and freshman point guard Trevor Releford was tough to handle, notching 16 points, eight assists and four steals.
For MSU, Sidney had 11 points and three rebounds, while Kodi Augustus had 11 points and just one rebound.
MSU shot 41.2 percent for the game and 33.3 percent from 3-point range against the league’s best defensive team.
“I thought we all got shook a little bit, and they jumped on us, and we just didn’t play with the right poise,” Stansbury said.