Oats-Less Alabama Earns Emotional Victory Over Mississippi State
In what was certainly the wackiest game of the season thus far for the Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball team, they answered the bell and came away with a massive 80-75 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night.
With about seven minutes left in the game, Alabama coach Nate Oats received his second technical foul after getting one just minutes earlier, leading to his ejection. At this point, Mississippi State led by seven and all hope seemed lost for a Crimson Tide team that had just lost their coach and was letting the game completely slip away from them.
But something changed for Alabama after this, instead of wilting under adversity as they have often done this season, their coach fighting for them and getting emotional seemed to light a fire under both them and the crowd at Coleman Coliseum.
Behind a noticeably louder arena, though nowhere close to full, Alabama went on an 18-2 scoring run after Oats' ejection, leading by 11 at one point with less than a minute remaining in the game.
"He fights for us, we fight for him," said freshman center Charles Bediako on the emotional victory and impressive performance following Oats' ejection.
It should also be noted that junior guard Jahvon Quinerly played arguably his best game of the season tonight. Finishing with 21 points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds, and just 2 turnovers, Quinerly was a steadying force for an Alabama offense that struggled at times tonight.
Of course, in the typical fashion of how this season has gone, they struggled to close the game out, and the Bulldogs pulled within three in the game's final seconds, but clutch free throws from sophomore forward Darius Miles to put the Tide up by five would ultimately seal the victory for Alabama.
While there are certainly a lot of positives to be taken away from this one, most notably Alabama showing some serious fight in the face of adversity to earn an important SEC win and their third straight victory, the news is not all good by a long shot.
Alabama shot the ball dreadfully from deep once again Wednesday night, finishing the game 6/30 for a lousy 20%. While they cut down tremendously on turnovers from the Arkansas game from 24 to 14, they still looked sloppy and frankly lost on some possessions on offense.
Mississippi State certainly made a lot of shots that kept them in this one, but it should have been over well before it was and Alabama allowed an inferior team to nearly beat them once again by simply not being able to put them away.
If this Alabama team wants any hope of a deep run in March, their play Wednesday night will not be good enough. While overall it should be looked at as a big positive that they were able to get the win, things will need to be tuned up, especially with a matchup in Lexington against Kentucky this Saturday.