By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Mississippi State wore its black uniforms on Saturday, which proved appropriate, because the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament hopes might’ve been buried at Coleman Coliseum.
Arnett Moultrie said he sees this season “slipping away” from MSU, which fell 67-50 to Alabama to suffer its fifth consecutive loss.
Mississippi State (19-10, 6-8 SEC) is 1-6 in league road games.
“We have to defend, we have to do everything and we’re not doing anything right now. We’re just out there,” said the 6-foot-11 junior forward, who was held to seven points on a season-low three field goal attempts.
Asked to elaborate, Moultrie added, “Yeah, we’re just out there. We’re not competing or nothing.”
MSU was competing pretty well in the first half, but Alabama rode an 18-5 run and a career-high 18 points from freshman Levi Randolph to get its sixth victory in eight games. The Crimson Tide (19-9, 8-6) also received a spark from forward JaMychal Green, who had nine points in his return from a four-game suspension.
Alabama shot 64 percent in the second half and made 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
“We gave up some easy baskets out of transition and in the press,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said, “but in the second half, we got some shots to fall, and our defensive intensity was the difference in the game.”
MSU has lost four in a row here and was held to its lowest point total since scoring 49 against Southern Illinois on Nov. 23, 2007.
The Bulldogs, playing without injured starter Rodney Hood, shot 38.3 percent overall and was 6 of 16 from 3-point range. Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney, who was limited in the first half by foul trouble, had 14 points each.
Moultrie was drawing double and triple teams every time he touched it, and the Bulldogs never could solve that riddle. In the teams’ first meeting, a 56-52 MSU win in Starkville on Jan. 14, Moultrie had 25 points and 13 rebounds.
“I got trapped a few times, but that still shouldn’t be no excuse for me getting only three touches,” he said.
Alabama led 20-16 when State went on a 9-2 run, and the Bulldogs looked to be taking a lead into the locker room. But Bost was called for a foul when Trevor Releford put up a 3-pointer at the horn, and Releford hit all three free throws to make it a 25-25 game at halftime.
That marked the beginning of the 18-5 run that helped Alabama build up a 40-30 lead. MSU eventually cut it to 43-38 on a Jalen Steele 3-pointer, but the Tide got a pair of layups from Releford.
Then it was Charles Hankerson’s turn, as the sophomore had a 3-pointer and a putback to make it a 55-39 lead with 7:23 left. Bost turned it over the next possession, and the crowd was in a frenzy heading into a media timeout.
The Bulldogs went more than seven minutes without a field goal during that stretch.
“I thought we took the last play of the half into the locker room and came out and played the first five minutes of the second half just like that,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “That was the basketball game.”
Now State faces a trip to South Carolina on Wednesday, then a home game versus Arkansas to close out the regular season. As Bost noted after the game, it might take winning the SEC Tournament for this team to earn an NCAA bid.
“I don’t even worry about any of that, none of that,” Stansbury said. “You win enough, you get in.”