Last night’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide started well enough for the Mississippi State Bulldogs: an alley-oop to Jamont Gordon on the very first play. The Bulldogs having their way in the paint against the non-existent Alabama defense led to a Mark Gottfried timeout 48 seconds into the match. The Bulldogs eventually got a 10-0 lead within the first three minutes.
But when MSU started getting sloppy, resulting from a couple undisciplined efforts on defense and several ill-advised shots, the Crimson Tide would go on a run to tie the game at 27. Bama’s streak would continue until they had a nine point lead at 36-27. During that stretch, Mississippi State put down their brushes and halted work in the paint. Instead, they opted to launch nine three pointers, missing all except one. Who made the one? Big man Charles Rhodes of course.
The Bulldog zone aided the most in Alabama’s foray into the game. Alternatively, the Tide went 8-14 from long distance as the Bulldogs waited until around the five minute mark to test their man defense. Oh, and don’t forget points off turnovers, Alabama had 15 in the first half as they led 36-29 at intermission. The only thing that didn’t really hamper the Bulldogs was free throw shooting; they went 8-10 from the line.
The beginning of the second half did not show much promise as the Miss. State scored four points, committed three turnovers and missed five shots (including three 3-pointers) in the first six minutes. It was hard to imagine that the same team which scored 10 points in the first 2:23 would only score 23 points in the next 23:48. The Mississippi State zone offense has long been one of the weaker points of Coach Stansbury’s repertoire. It usually involves dribbling and passing the ball around the horn as the shot clock runs down, the end result being the chance of a long distance shot.
But someone, something, cracked open the door of emotion for the Bulldogs….if just a little bit. The M-State team fought their way back to a three point deficit, down 46-43 with 11 minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, I’m one who focuses more on the negative……such as Jamont Gordon’s pocket defense (I know that Rick Stansbury teaches his kids to hand-carry the ball and to do away with hands in holsters); the abundance of Alabama offensive rebounds (they had nine in the second half); and the zero confidence of Barry Stewart. I’ve issued another amber alert on the sophomore, a previous member of the SEC All-Freshman team.
And then, Jamont Gordon does something so amazing on offense, that we have no choice but to gasp and put aside his transgressions. With about 1:20 left in the game, Gordon, aka The Ice Cream Man, charged up the court, gave a nasty cross-over (looked like the defender was leaning in the wrong direction) and did his impersonation of a train going down the lane with a huge left-handed dunk, which put Mississippi State up 58-56.
But those holsters then got stuck as the Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot at the O.K. Corral. If Barry Stewart, the team’s starting 2-guard who is supposed to be a shooter, makes both of his free-throws with 7 seconds left, you could forget all about the text below. Barry didn’t. He missed his second attempt from the charity stripe leaving MSU with only a 3 point lead.
Ultimately, Alabama was left taking the ball out of bounds on their end with two seconds left in the game. Mistake #1: Arguable. Mississippi State did not put a man on the inbounds passer. Yes, I understand wanting to avoid a lob pass with an extra rover, but two seconds is a lot of time. I’d rather prevent the “easy” pass. Mistake #2: Huge. Mississippi State, at least two fouls away from putting Alabama in the double bonus, did not foul the man on the floor. Thank you Ben Hansbrough. You’ve no doubt seen the highlights of the Mykal Riley 3-pointer, sending the game into overtime. And perhaps you’ve seen the footage of an incensed Stansbury who told his team to foul.
Surprise! A tornado. With 2:11 left in the overtime period, Mississippi State held onto a three point lead as they fouled Alabama’s Alonzo Gee on the floor; the winds in the Georgia Dome began to blow. At first, I thought the players were looking up at the jumbotron to see a replay of the foul. As the cameras panned to the swaying suspended metal structures, I knew the situation was a scary one. The players, the coaches, and their families cleared the court as those in attendance were advised to stay inside the Georgia Dome to safely wait out the storm. Read the report from Kyle Veazy’s blog on the Clarion-Ledger.
A lengthy delay made everyone wonder about the next course of action. The final 2:11 resumed well past 10:30 pm est. Remember that foul on Alonzo Gee? Must’ve been the hardest front end of a 1-and-1 ever…..after a 63 minute delay and a 10 minute warm-up, he missed.
The play of the game came when Ben Hansbrough missed a 3-pointer. Jamont Gordon, who had impressed me with his muscle on the offensive glass, got the strong rebound and put-back, giving MSU a five point lead, 66-61 with 52 seconds left. A resilient Bama hung around. Richard Hendrix was allowed to get not one, but two offensive put-back dunks. Gordon simply neglected to box him out on one occasion. In the end, fate was in the hands of the younger Hansbrough brother.
Poor Ben Hansbrough. One Shining Moment wasn’t playing in the locker room for him last night. He played a gutty game with 8 points, 2 assists, 6 rebounds and only 1 turnover; a great stat line. Unfortunately, he was cold from the field, taking all eight of his shots from beyond the arc and making only two. He failed to commit the foul at the end of regulation, but not forgetting Stewart’s missed FT.
Seven seconds left, Mississippi State up by a deuce and Ben Hansbrough at the line with a chance for redemption. A white guy missing both free-throws? Seems like a tornado just hit the dome of my basketball mentality. With Alabama down a bucket, this gave Mykal Riley another chance to be a hero; twice in one day…that guy’s lucky. But a 3-point miss that went 20% in then 100% out, perhaps moved by dissipating winds, would swing the luck back in the Bulldogs direction.
Final Score: Mississippi State 69, Alabama 67
An Interview: with the Tornado
AP Photos: from Gregg Ellis – Inside Mississippi State Sports blog
The Game Story: Clarion-Ledger
The Tornado Story: Atlanta Journal and Constitution
Wrap-Up: Post game notes and interviews from secsports.com