January 19, 2008

Bulldogs knock off Tide, 66-56

A little snow on the ground made for a rare sight in Tuscaloosa Saturday, but the sights inside Coleman Coliseum were all too familiar.

The Alabama basketball team fell to 0-4 in Southeastern Conference play with a 66-55 loss to Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide (11-8) trailed by just five at the half, but the common refrains of Alabama's losses - cold shooting from both 3-point range and the free-throw line - conspired to prevent a comeback.

UA shot 2 of 14 from 3-point range and is now 5 of 34 over the last two games from that distance. At the free-throw line, the Crimson Tide shot 14 of 24.

"We had great looks all day," said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried. "Shots you want to take, shots we'll keep shooting. … At the end of the day, 100 percent of this sits right here with me. The responsibility is mine. They just need to play and if they make mistakes, make them at 100 miles an hour."

Alabama pulled within four points twice in the second half, once on a 3-point play by Hendrix, and later on a 3-point play by freshman Senario Hillman, who got loose for a layup and foul on an inbounds play. Then, trailing 59-55 with possession, freshman guard Rico Pickett threw an errant pass that resulted in a steal and dunk by MSU's Jamont Gordon. It represented a turning point, as MSU went on a 7-0 run to put the game away.

"He can't learn by sitting on the bench," Gottfried said of Pickett. "He'll learn by playing."

Gordon recorded game-highs of 24 points and five assists, including a couple of 3-pointers from NBA range.

The Crimson Tide was led by Hendrix (21 points). Alonzo Gee scored 10 but shot only 2 of 9, and Myal Riley, also 2 of 9, scored just five points.

"We got into Riley [defensively] and we got into Gee," said MSU coach Rick Stansbury. "We made a conscious decision that those two weren't going to beat us."

Alabama did a better job getting Hendrix involved early in the game offensively, as the All-SEC pick got an assist to Demetrius Jemison for UA's first points, and two early baskets to spark an early 8-6 lead.

It was short-lived. The Bulldogs (13-5) never trailed after taking a 30-28 lead on a first-half 3-pointer by Riley Benock.

"The effort is there," said Gottfried. "If you're not getting enough effort, now you've got other issues. Our problem is when we've got a key play at a key time, we can't make it on either end of the floor."

Of the team's effort, Hendrix indicated a slip won't be tolerated.

"The mood better not change," Hendrix said. "If we don't have the mentality to still go out and want to win games and believe you can win games, you're not in the right place."

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