January 17, 2013 4:32:06 AM
STARKVILLE - Over two weeks ago Mississippi State University men's basketball embarrassingly lost to Alabama A&M University or how one member of the Bulldogs staff put it "Alabama with some stuff behind it".
It took days for the team, its staff and everybody associated with the program to mentally get over the 59-57 home loss on Dec. 30.
16 days later, MSU found a way to repeat that same emotional feeling at Humphrey Coliseum again in Wednesday's 75-43 conquering at the hands of the University of Alabama. This time it was the real Alabama - the state school in Tuscaloosa, the one in the Southeastern Conference, the one with no stuff behind it.
"They know they lost bad," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "They know they didn't come out and compete tonight and it was a lopsided score. Where it ranks in MSU history is of no material to them."
Adding to the embarrassment was the fact Alabama (10-6, 2-1) was able to accomplish the second-highest margin of victory by an opponent in the 38-year history of the Humphrey Coliseum without its top player and leading scorer in junior point guard Trevor Releford.
"I thought our guys met the challenge first defensively, which led to some offensive opportunities for us on the other end," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
Alabama did whatever they wanted in the paint in the first half and beyond the three-point arc to start the second half. The Crimson Tide used a 27-3 run stretching over both halves to make the deficit laughable and send a majority of the announced crowd of 5,465 searching for the nearest exit.
Numerous possessions would go something like this: MSU turns it over and an Alabama secondary break ends with a wide-open three point shot or a uncontested layup leading to boos from the Humphrey Coliseum fans after Ray called timeout in the faint hopes of settling his team down.
MSU went the first three minutes of the second half without scoring and suddenly an eight-point halftime deficit became a 21-point blowout that was about to get much worse.
"I'm really disappointed in the way our guys came out and played," Ray said. "I thought they let down right away when they found out Releford wasn't playing. The biggest disappointment I have is fact that we didn't compete."
Releford, who was ninth in the SEC in minutes per game at 31 per night, was not needed at all as he watched from the bench with a severe ankle injury suffered Monday in practice. The junior's 16 points per game were easily picked up by the trio of guards including Levi Randolph (18 points), Rodney Cooper (17 points) and Trevor Lacey (11 points) and shooting 8-of-11 from three-point range.
"We just wanted to put pressure on them, create turnovers and get them out of rhythm," Grant said. "I just can't say it enough that I thought our defense created everything we did offensively and that is going to be key for us going forward."
Alabama outscored MSU 38-18 in the paint, 25-11 off turnovers and 13-2 off second-chance points mostly coming from 13 offensive rebounds by the Tide's interior players.
"They were getting all the tipped balls, all the rebounds and every second-chance shot," MSU junior guard Jalen Steele said. "They made every shot they put up. We did everything we could and they still made every shot. Everything went their way."
MSU, which came into Wednesday night 341st in the nation (of 345 Division 1 men's basketball programs) in assist-to-turnover ration would end the evening with 21 turnovers, 16 made field goals and just six total assists. Wednesday night marked the fifth time this season MSU has gone over 20 turnovers in a game this season.
"We've been beaten badly before tonight but I didn't feel we competed in one aspect of the game tonight," Ray said. "The defense faltered because we were giving the ball to them. I also thought we played as individuals instead of as a team."
While still shaking his head in amazement and humbleness that occurred on his home court, Ray was surprisingly open and honest about his players showing a level of content no coach wants to see after starting out SEC play with two straight victories. In the practices leading up to the contest Wednesday night, the Bulldogs first-year coach said he "saw this coming" from his inexperienced group.
"You could tell in practice the last couple of days, the kids were satisfied with the 2-0 start (in SEC play)," Ray said. "I wish I could pinpoint it. I don't know if it was youth or the fact we hadn't experienced success before or what. I always say reading the press clippings is like poison. The poison can't hurt you unless you drink it."
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