The tide suffers it's first SEC loss on the road to arch rival Mississippi $tate. There were a lot of positives from this game, but it always hurts to lose a road game that you had a great chance to steal, especially to those assholes.
Another slow start put us behind the 8 ball early. JaMychal Green made our first 2 shots, and then we went on a 6 minute scoring drought. Once again, our perimeter shooting was nowhere to be found. Andrew Steele made one 3, that was it for us from behind the arc. Fortunately, $tate was not much better from behind the arc, at least until Dee Bost went off in the final 4 minutes of the game. We were only down 8 after our early scoring drought despite turning the ball over on 4 straight trips. Releford did not have one of his better games, particularly in the first half.
Once again, Andrew Steele stepped up and showed great senior leadership on the road. It is no coincidence that every time we went on one of our runs, Steele was on the floor. With Eblen giving Releford a rest and Andrew in the game, we were able to come back and tie the game in the first half.
We trailed by 6 at the half, thanks in large part to very poor clock management at the end of the first half. Once again, we failed to use our "use it or lose it" timeout after getting a stop which should have given us the final shot. I can sort of understand that, as we had a favorable matchup with Tony Mitchell against their man to man defense. Coach Grant may have feared that $tansfield would switch to a zone or make some substitutions, but I think it's better to draw up a play and emphasize the importance of making sure you get the last shot. Instead, Tony drove to the basket with 8 seconds remaining, missed a shot, and m$u cashed in at the other end.
Overall, we played much better in the 2nd half, as we took better care of the basketball and generally took higher percentage shots. There was another point in the 2nd half where it looked like $tate might run us out of the game as they stretched the lead back out to nine points, but we answered with a run of our own and actually regained the lead in the final 5 minutes. Green picked up his usual dumb fouls which limited our options somewhat. Tony Mitchell was our leading rebounder, but did not do much else. His defense, or lack thereof, was ultimately the difference in the game. To put it bluntly, he was Arnett Moultrie's bitch. Credit to Moultrie, who scored 25 of $tate's 56 points. For much of the 2nd half, we were in a man to man defense with Mitchell attempting to guard him. Green being in foul trouble was not an option. I would have tried something different at some point, even if it meant putting a guard like Andrew or Levi on him. Sure, he would have probably killed us in the post, but at least give it a shot for a possession or two because Mitchell was absolutely hopeless against him.
Another key to the game was $tate's offensive rebounding. With Moultrie and Sidney down there and Green playing with foul trouble, it's not that surprising that they got a ton of 2nd chance points.
We were able to get some stops when $tansfield inexplicably took Moultrie out of the game for an extended period of time. When he returned, we did better against them in the zone as we were able to deny him the ball for the most part. Unfortunately, that led to Bost finally making an open 3, which got him into rhythm and allowed him make 2 more crucial treys that ended up being the difference in the game.
As Alias mentioned before, Sidney seemed to get the benefit of the doubt on some physical plays with Green in the post. A key no call in the game came with us down 1 late, when JaMychal appeared to be bumped pretty hard going up for a shot that he would miss. $tate scored at the other end to push the lead to 3. Our clock management at the end of the game was no better than it was to end the first half. Down 3 with 7 seconds to play, we decided it would be a good idea to drive to the basket for a layup. We scored with 3 seconds left, but there is not much you can down 1 with 3 seconds left and not having the ball. We nearly got a 5 second violation, but $tate connected on a long run out and converted the "And one" at the other end to secure the 4 point victory.
I don't compliment them much, but I did like the fact that they bring their football recruits in and have them walk across the floor just before the start of the 2nd half. Of course, I doubt any of them could be too impressed with an outfit whose fans go ape-shit over the presentation of a Music City Bowl Trophy, as was the case a few moments later. So, it's all relative.
I apologize for the lack of pictures (I took the one above with my phone before the game) but my girlfriend decided not to make this trip, in fact, she likely will not return to $tarkville due to numerous bad experiences with their fans. Today was no different, as people sitting in front of us got in our faces and started talking trash as soon as the game was over, nearly leading to a physical altercation. It was not surprising at all to me, despite the fact that we had not said one negative word about those hicks in the stands, the thugs on their team, their crook of a coach, or their cow pasture of a town/school all game. EVERY time I have been over there, I have encountered at least one loud mouth piece of white trash who is looking to start something.
I disagree with Alias below regarding this being a great rivalry akin to what we have with Arkansas. I respect Arkansas. Arkansas has a rich history, tradition, and some of the nicest facilities in the SEC if not nation. While Fayetteville is a bitch to get to, it is actually a fun town and area once you get there. I have always been treated well on my trips to Arkansas. Mi$$i$$ippi $tate on the other hand is arguably the dirtiest program in the country, they are the little brother in the only state in the Union that is consistently even worse than ours, located in the middle of nowhere, and in my experiences their fans mostly consist of obese, backwoods Mississippi white trash. I have been to every venue in the SEC, and many across the country. I've traveled all over the Western hemisphere watching Alabama basketball. NOWHERE have I CONSISTENTLY ran into as many completely classless fans as those that reside at the dump. Every fanbase has it's fair share of jerks, including ours, but at this point I have to conclude that jackwads in $tarkville are the rule rather than the exception. I'm looking forward to beating their ass in Tuscaloosa.
Up next, the Vanderbilt Commodores come to Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Thursday (why can't we get a 7pm start for once? it's always either 6 or 8, both of which suck in different ways). Vandy is a very talented team that was picked to challenge for the conference title, and are still unbeaten in the league. It's way too early in the season to start talking about "must wins," but with a weekend trip to Lexington looming, we've got to have this one to avoid a 3 game losing streak.