By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Mississippi State was missing Rodney Hood in more ways than one on Saturday.
The freshman guard had to sit out with a knee injury, and that was one less weapon on both ends of the court for the Bulldogs in a 67-50 loss to Alabama. MSU shot 38.3 percent and got only four points from its bench.
“Y’all know what that does to our team,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “It absolutely changes everything we do, the way we function, the depth of us, and it’s tough.”
Hood, who averages 11.0 points per game, suffered a deep bone bruise in his left knee in Tuesday’s loss to Kentucky. Stansbury said it’s “doubtful” Hood will return for Wednesday’s game at South Carolina.
Brian Bryant was forced into the three-guard role, a tough assignment for the senior.
“It changed a lot for us,” point guard Dee Bost said. “That’s another big-time scorer for us and a good defender.”
Randolph gets loose
Alabama has had its own personnel issues due to player suspensions, but it’s had other people step up. Even with forward JaMychal Green back from a four-game suspension – he scored nine points off the bench – the Tide got contributions from elsewhere.
A pair of freshmen made a big impact. Levi Randolph scored a game-high and career-high 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and Rodney Cooper scored eight points in making his fourth start in the last five games.
Randolph had seven points and Cooper scored five during a crucial 18-5 Alabama run.
“I’ve always said this about freshmen: Sometimes they just need to see the ball go in a few times,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought that happened for (Randolph) tonight, where he really loosened up.”
Bama also got 32 points from its bench, including 10 from Trevor Releford, who’s normally a starter but began the game on the bench because of what Grant called a “time management issue.”
Guard Trevor Lacey, who suffered a sprained ankle on Thursday, started the game but sat the second half after aggravating the injury.
This five-game losing streak is MSU’s longest since the 2005-06 season, when it dropped seven in a row. It’s tied for the second-longest losing streak under Stansbury, who’s in his 14th season.
State lost five in a row during the 1999-2000 season as well. It failed to reach the postseason in both 2000 and ’06.
Stansbury said this slide doesn’t feel any different than those other two and pointed out that three of the losses have come on the road and another was against No. 1 Kentucky at home.
“We have one really bad game in that stretch, and that was at home against Georgia,” he said. “That don’t bother me at all, no. You get ready for the next one.”