Alabama struggles to find consistency and Mississippi State snaps winning streak

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Avery Johnson wants the basketball team to be faster and more aggressive on offense. CW | Amellia Armstrong

Tyler Waldrep

When coach Avery Johnson looked around the locker room prior to tip off on Saturday he didn’t recognize the team in front of him.

“I didn’t like the energy in the locker room before the game,” Johnson said. “We had a different type of energy before LSU and Florida.”

At first Johnson’s fears might have seemed misplaced when the Crimson Tide jumped out to an 11-4 lead over Mississippi State in the first five minutes of play. In the following four minutes the team with the longest active win streak in the SEC (5 wins) lost the lead for the remainder of the game and saw its streak snapped as the Bulldogs left town with a 67-61 victory. 

“They were the hungrier team tonight,” Johnson said. “I would say since I’ve been here there’s not many times I can say our opposing team was hungrier than us.”

In the loss, Retin Obasohan and Shannon Hale both finished with a game-high 22 points. For Hale this marked a new season-high and was the first time he scored more than 10 points since a Jan. 30 trip to South Carolina.

This was the 10th consecutive game Obasohan finished with at least 15 points. He has scored a minimum of 20 total points in 12 of the team’s 26 games this season.

“[Obasohan] earned every single point he got [on Saturday],” Mississippi State’s coach Ben Howland said. “He’s on my ballot, already sent in as a [SEC] first-teamer. That’s how good I think he is, he’s one of the five best players in the SEC.”

Obasohan’s teammates didn’t have the same type of success. Riley Norris didn’t take a shot and grabbed only four rebounds and Justin Coleman followed his 21-point outing against LSU with one point after going 0-2 from the field.

Johnson said it was difficult to find points without those two players contributing, but he also said he needed to see more from big men Donta Hall and Jimmie Taylor.

“I think we needed more rebounds from both he [Taylor] and Donta, but more than anything when I look on the stat sheet and you know those guys have only two blocks between em, its not a good night for us,” Johnson said.

Since Alabama started its five-game winning streak against Mississippi State a few weeks ago the Crimson Tide started to hear some bubble talk. Howland said he does not think the loss to his team will prevent a team with a resume like the one Alabama has to miss out on the tournament.

Alabama’s post season hopes are still alive, but losing to a below .500 this late in the season hurts. However, this stain will more than come out in the wash if the Crimson Tide can beat No. 14 Kentucky on Tuesday night on the road.

“The fortunate thing about Tuesday, we should be an overwhelming underdog,” Johnson said. “Hopefully like a 100 point underdog so I can get back to seeing the team and the focus that I need to see.”