Bulldogs struggling on the road in SEC play

Published 9:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mississippi State still looks like it’ll get to the NCAA Tournament. Until they find a way to consistently win on the road, however, it’ll be a rocky road to get there.

The Bulldogs once again struggled from 3-point range and had a few other weaknesses show up in an 83-79 loss at Alabama on Tuesday.

The defeat dropped their record to 3-4 in the Southeastern Conference as they head to Ole Miss on Saturday to close out a stretch of four road games in a two-week span. Three of their four SEC losses have come on the road.

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“Staying positive. There’s nothing we can change before we play the next road game, so we’ve got to get ready to battle again,” said Mississippi State forward Aric Holman, who had 12 points and eight rebounds against Alabama.

Mississippi State (15-5, 3-4 SEC) made only eight 3-pointers in two road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky. It rebounded to make 13 in a home win over Auburn, and then slumped again in Tuscaloosa.

The Bulldogs, who rank third in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (36.8) and 3-pointers made (175), were only 3-for-19 on Tuesday. They fell into a 14-point hole early in the second half, rallied to get within three on several occasions, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

In their last three road games, the Bulldogs are 11-for-58 (18.9 percent) from 3-point range. In their last three home games, they’re 29-for-68 (42.6 percent).

“We’ve got to stay on the path. Keep getting in the gym, keep working on our shot, and it’s going to fall,” Holman said.

Against Alabama (13-7, 4-3), other shots weren’t falling either. Mississippi State was 11-for-33 overall in the first half and only scored 19 second chance points on 19 offensive rebounds.

Alabama finished 22-for-36 from the free throw line (61 percent), compared to the Bulldogs’ 54.5 percent (12-of-22).

“We got to the offensive boards a lot in the first half and didn’t finish a lot of the ones we got back,” coach Ben Howland said.

The Bulldogs managed to get the deficit to three points in the final minute. With 30 seconds left they had a chance to tie, as Tyson Carter took a shot from the right corner. Alabama’s Kira Lewis got over a screen and tipped the ball, which landed in the hands of teammate Donta Hall.

“We got a good look for him,” Howland said. “He was open in the corner, and give him credit.”

Hall was fouled after Lewis’ block, and split a pair of free throws to put the Crimson Tide ahead 81-77. Mississippi State missed two more shots down the stretch and Alabama’s Herbert Jones made 2 of 4 free throws for the 83-79 final score.

Hall finished with a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds. Jones scored eight points, and was one of eight Alabama players with at least seven.

Reggie Perry led Mississippi State with 18 points and seven rebounds, but had a dunk blocked by Jones in the final minute.

Perry and Quinndary Weatherspoon combined for 26 points in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Also of concern for the Bulldogs was the status of guard Nick Weatherspoon. He missed a dunk with 1:04 left in the first half, and his left knee buckled when he landed. He was carried to the locker room and was scheduled to have an MRI on Wednesday.

Weatherspoon scored seven points before his injury. He’s averaging 10.1 points per game this season.

Howland said that Weatherspoon was tested for an ACL, and the doctors said that it was most likely a patella injury.

“When he landed on that you could see it buckle,” Howland said after the game. “That’s a huge concern moving forward. We’re hoping it’s not a huge, serious thing that’s going to keep him out for an extended period of time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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