TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Mississippi State could not overcome a slow start Wednesday night as the Basketball Bulldogs dropped a 75-61 decision to Alabama in the Coleman Coliseum.
The victory allowed the Crimson Tide to sweep the season series for the first time since 2005. Alabama has also now won nine of the past 11 series meetings in this arena.
Alabama also strengthened its stranglehold on the Western Division lead. The Crimson Tide improved to 14-7 overall and 6-1 in league play - a full two games ahead of Arkansas and three games ahead of MSU. Alabama is 12-0 at home this season. The Bulldogs fell to 11-10 and 3-4.
"Give Alabama credit, they made plays," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "They are very tough when they are playing at home. I never thought we got going. They jumped on us early and we didn't respond."
The Crimson Tide scored the game's first five points and never trailed in the game. Combined with Alabama's 75-57 win in Starkville, the Bulldogs never led by more than three points in either contest.
Alabama forced 12 first-half turnovers by MSU. The Bulldogs also played almost the final 19 minutes of the opening half without Renardo Sidney, who drew two personal fouls in the opening 1:19 of play.
"The two fouls on (Sidney) really took us out our offensive game plan," Stansbury said. "It took us out of what we were trying to do. We really looked rattled the rest of the half. We had 12 turnovers first half, only two in the second half. However, you can't dig a hole on the road and expect to get out of it."
Offensively, the Crimson Tide stormed out of the gates, energizing the near capacity crowd of 10,771. A layup by Trevor Releford created an 11-4 advantage less than three minutes into the contest. The lead grew to 10, at 18-8 on a 3-point basket by Charvez Davis.
Down 22-12, the Bulldogs slowly battled back with six straight points. A 3-pointer by Dee Bost was followed by a steal from Ravern Johnson and another layup by Bost. Bost sank a free throw to complete a three-point play, bringing the Maroon and White within 22-18.
The Crimson Tide regrouped with their own 6-0 run, creating a 30-20 advantage with 2:56 left before halftime. After a 3-point make from MSU's Jalen Steele, the hosts scored the half's final five points - including a 3-pointer by Davis as time expired - to take a 35-23 lead at halftime.
Sidney scored the opening basket of the second half. However, Alabama followed with the game's next seven points to open a 42-25 advantage with 17:59 left to play. Two possessions later, a trey by Davis opened up the game's biggest lead - at 45-27.
Down 47-29, the Bulldogs answered with back-to-back 3-point baskets by Riley Benock and Bost. With 11:13 left, the Bulldogs closed within nine at 53-44 on a pair of Kodi Augustus' free throws.
The Bulldogs remained within striking distance until a back-breaking 3-point basket up against the shot clock extended the advantage back out to 16 points with 5:21 left.
MSU closed within 12 points twice in the final couple of minutes but could get no closer.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 21 of 51 shots from the field (41.2 percent), 6 of 18 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 13 of 18 shots from the foul line (72.2 percent). The Crimson Tide hit 27 of 57 shots from the field (47.4 percent), 7 of 14 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 14 of 17 shots from the foul line (82.4 percent).
UA held a 39-25 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had 14 assists and 15 turnovers.
Bost paced the Bulldogs with 18 points. Also in double figures were Sidney and Augustus, each with 11 points and Johnson with 10 points. No Bulldog managed more than four rebounds in the contest.
Tony Mitchell paced Alabama with 23 points. Davis finished with 17 points, including a 5-for-8 night from 3-point range. Releford added 16 points; while JaMychal Green logged the game's only double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds).
MSU remains on the road for a Saturday contest with LSU. The Bulldogs and Tigers tip at 3 p.m. from the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge. The contest will be televised regionally by The SEC Network.