BULLDOG DROP ANOTHER
By Gene Phelps
STARKVILLE Mississippi State made a fatal error in the final seconds of Saturday’s SEC game against Alabama.
The Bulldogs left the league’s second-leading scorer, Eric Washington, wide open for a 3-point shot. Guess what happened next?
Washington took advantage of his good fortune and nailed a 25-foot field goal from the left wing with 2.8 seconds remaining to lift Alabama to a stunning 56-55 upset of the No. 12-ranked Bulldogs before a silent crowd of 8,125 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs had just taken the lead, 55-53, with 8.7 seconds remaining on a 3-pointer by point guard Marcus Bullard.
Alabama, which had no timeouts left, quickly moved the ball down court and caught some of the Bulldogs flat footed on defense. Guard Marvin Orange whipped the ball from the top of the key out to Washington for the shot.
“I really don’t know what they (the Bulldogs) were doing,” Washington said. “I was just trying to get down there and get a basket.”
Washington said his basket came off an “attack drill” that the team works on in practice.
“I caught Marvin’s eyes,” said Washington, who scored 19 points. “I was hoping it would go in.”
Bullard, who hit the big shot for State, said the Bulldogs were guilty of celebrating after his basket.
“But we got back. We just didn’t pick up their man,” he said. “Orange penetrated and found Washington on the wing. You can’t blame it on one or two people. It was a team effort.”
Added State reserve Whit Hughes, “You can’t quit until the game is over. We started celebrating too soon. We didn’t get our matchups right coming back down the floor. Even if you don’t have your matchups right you’ve got to find Eric Washington. He’s their best shooter. You can’t give him a look like that.”
State’s Bullard attempted to get off a final shot at the buzzer, but the ball was knocked out of his hands.
The loss was the second straight for the Bulldogs, who saw their record drop to 10-3 overall and to 2-2 in the SEC Western Division. State lost 74-56 earlier in the week to No. 2 Kentucky and its pre-SEC loss to Arkansas-Little Rock Dec. 9 give it three consecutive home losses.
Alabama moves to the top of the SEC West, improving its record to 9-3 overall and to 3-1 in the division.
State led 25-24 at halftime and built a 10-point lead, 36-26, with 14:57 left. But Alabama, behind the driving play of freshman guard Brian Williams, rallied with an 11-0 run to go up 37-36 with 10:08 showing. A 3-pointer by Williams put the Tide on top.
From that point the score see-sawed until the end. Erick Dampier gave State a 50-48 lead at the 2:37 mark, but the Tide answered with a Washington 3-pointer with 1:47 left.
Williams’ layup gave Alabama a 53-50 leadwhen Dampier was called for goal tending with 36 ticks left. State pulled to within 53-52 on a 12-foot jumper by Russell Walters.
Bullard grabbed a rebound with 22 seconds left on a missed free throw by Orange to set up the Bulldogs’ go-ahead possession.
For State, Dampier had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Darryl Wilson added 14 points and Bullard added 11.
For Alabama, Washington and Williams had 19 each. Forward Thalamus McGhee hauled down a game-high 16 rebounds.