Late free-throw seals win for Bulldogs

Published 11:18 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

STARKVILLE. (AP) — Andersson Garcia made a free throw with 3.7 seconds left and Iverson Molinar had a game-high 24 points for Mississippi State, which held off No. 24 Alabama 78-76 on Saturday night.

Alabama was looking to rebound from its 81-77 loss to rival No. 4 Auburn on Tuesday, but Keon Ellis missed a long 3-pointer just before the buzzer. Jaden Shackelford led Alabama (11-6, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) with 17 points, while Ellis and Darius Miles each had 14 and Charles Bediako had 11 points.

“A great win for us today and a great team effort,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “We knew we were going to get Alabama’s best effort and they gave it to us today. Our team in the second half did a great job on the glass and we forced 15 turnovers. I thought our defensive field-goal percentage was outstanding.”

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The Bulldogs (12-4, 3-1) beat the Crimson Tide for the fourth time in the last five meetings in Starkville. Molinar also had six rebounds and four assists, while Garrison Brooks had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Shakeel Moore added 15 points, including going 9 for 9 at the free-throw line.

“We came out here and played tough and played aggressive,” said Molinar, who has averaged 26 points in his last two games. “That is what you need to beat a good team. We needed to play as hard as we could and I feel like we did that. This is a confidence boost.”

The Bulldogs held a 75-67 advantage following two free throws by Moore with 1:34 left. But back-to-back 3 pointers from Miles and Ellis brought Alabama within 75-73 with 42 seconds left.

Moore made two more free throws with 14 seconds left, before Ellis hit three in a row with 3.7 seconds left, cutting the Mississippi State advantage to 77-67.

For the game, Alabama shot just 39.3% from the floor and 27.6% behind the 3-point arc. Mississippi State wasn’t much better at 40.7% from the field and just 12.5% beyond the arc. The Bulldogs were 28 of 38 at the foul line while Alabama was 24 of 28 at the line.

“It is disappointing,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I thought we had a team that could compete for a league title. Just not quite as tough as we need to be to compete for a league title at this point. Maybe they’ll figure it, maybe it’ll come. We’ve gotta get tougher.”

The first half was a back-and-forth affair featuring 15 lead changes and five ties. Mississippi State held a 36-33 advantage late in the half, but Alabama closed the half on an 8-1 run and held a 41-37 advantage at halftime.

A combined 25 fouls were called in the first half for 32 free-throw attempts.


Alabama: The Crimson Tide has lost three straight games for the first time under coach Nate Oats. After opening SEC play with two wins, the Tide dropped their last two road games.