The Alabama Crimson Tide dominates the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 99-67, sweeping the season series for the second straight season. Mark Sears led the team with 21 points, followed by three other guys wearing Crimson who finished with double figures: Aaron Estrada had 15, Mouhamed Dioubate had 14 and nine rebounds, and Jarin Stevenson had 14 as well.

"We just executed; we didn't let them slow us down." Dioubate said. "We just kept the pace right, kept the pace up, and played fast in transition. Even though we started the game off rusty with our shot, we just kept our confidence up and played hard on both sides of the floor and executed."

 

The Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 82-74 in a grudge match in January, but this game was nothing like that. Alabama dominated State defensively, offensively, with hustle plays or "Blue Collar Points," showtime plays, you name it.

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Although Alabama only made two of its first ten shots, their defense got off to a strong start, limiting MSU to only 32% shooting in the first half and forcing ten turnovers.

Mohammed Wague, a transfer from West Virginia, was the driving force behind the Tide early on. He forced All-Conference forward Tolu Smith into turnovers, forced a couple of charge calls, and finished with two breakaway steals that led to dunks. In short, the Bronx, New York, native was one of the game's key players.

Less than five minutes into the first half, Alabama's offense got rolling behind Jarin Stevenson, who was shooting beautifully and scoring 11 points from three threes. Mark Sears also made three threes, which spelled the end for the Bulldogs.

In this game, Estrada was equally effective as Wague. The birthday boy found ways to gain points from the paint by finishing at the rim and getting past the players in maroon. He also occasionally pulled down offensive rebounds and putbacks.

In contrast to his last few home games, Rylan Griffen did not score as many points. Following his first shot, he missed a few more after that make. Prior to halftime, he missed back-to-back three-pointers, but following Stevenson and Dioubate's rebounds, he made his third try, energizing the crowd.

"Being aggressive again and not letting adversity stop us," Stevenson said. "Getting past the checkout and going for the rebound. Just trying to get Rylan going and getting teammates going is a big part of the game, so that was big."

Alabama would go on to dominate the rest of the game, finishing with 15 made threes on the night. The story of the game belongs to the freshmen, Jarin Stevenson and Mouhamed Dioubate.

Stevenson was a force on the offensive end, knocking down his corner threes and simply making effort plays all over the floor. When the threes did not fall early, Stevenson held it down until the rest of his teammates joined the party.

"I have been in the gym getting shots up," Stevenson said. "I feel like that's been a big part of me improving my shot. Just different actions for me, which is helping. Teammates getting me open, me ghosting and going to the basket, then now getting open shots, which is them setting screens for me, is getting open shots. So I feel like that's big, and it's really helped me score the ball."

Dioubate has greatly improved since the start of the season. He did not get a lot of playing time at first, but as the season progressed, he got his opportunities, improved, and now has a defined role on this team. He spent the majority of the night guarding Smith, who stands 6-foot-11 and weighs 245 pounds and can make plays all over the court. He blocked a three-pointer, resulting in a shot clock violation, finished at the rim against some of those bigs, getting some And-1s along the way, and went two for two at the free throw line, which was a big plus for him.

"I'm just being a dog," Dioubate said. "I'm just trying to go get every possession that I can. I know if I do that, it's going to create more opportunities for me on offense. So I just try my best to play hard the whole game and do the little things that matter."

With the win, the Crimson Tide remain at the top of the SEC, and they will seek to extend their winning streak. They do, however, have a difficult stretch of games coming up, including a trip to Auburn on Wednesday and a game against LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Alabama is hoping to maintain its number-one ranking, and they have some big tests this week.

Alabama Basketball vs Mississippi State

Gallery Credit: SEC Media Portal

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