Just about every college basketball team is bound to have an off night at some point. Even one as good as No. 2 Alabama basketball.
The Crimson Tide is just lucky that off night wasn’t paired with a loss.
Despite plenty of miscues and bumps along the way, Alabama managed to escape Wednesday with a 66-63 victory over Mississippi State at Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide remains undefeated in SEC play and has won nine consecutive games. Alabama also beat Mississippi State in December.
Jahvon Quinerly led Alabama with 14 points.
Here are observations and takeaways from the game between No. 2 Alabama (18-2, 8-0 SEC) and Mississippi State (12-8, 1-7).
Freshmen prove clutch late
The Crimson Tide didn’t hold a lead for the first time until 9:19 remained in regulation. It has Rylan Griffen to thank.
He scored two to bring Alabama within one, then a minute later, he hit a three to put the Crimson Tide up 48-46.
Griffen sometimes doesn’t get as much praise as his fellow freshmen Brandon Miller, Jaden Bradley and Noah Clowney, but Griffen is an important piece nonetheless.
The other freshmen followed Griffen’s lead. In the final minutes, Miller hit a clutch triple and Clowney had a vital dunk that gave Alabama the lead back each time.
Clowney and Miller each had 13 points. Griffen finished with five.
Alabama comes out flat in first half
Considering the struggles the Crimson Tide had at times in the first half, the score could have been worse than 36-29 Mississippi State at halftime.
Alabama’s shooting often wasn’t there early, and Mississippi State’s defense proved problematic as the No. 11 group in the country in defensive efficiency entering the week, according to KenPom. What was perhaps more surprising was how the Crimson Tide defense struggled at times against the Bulldogs’ offense. But here Mississippi State was outshooting and outrebounding Alabama in the first half.
As a result, the Crimson Tide never held a lead before the break.
Charles Bediako picking up three fouls before halftime didn’t help, considering the importance of the matchup with Mississippi State center Tolu Smith, the best player on the Bulldogs.
Alabama struggles from beyond the arc
The Crimson Tide had a few important triples at timely moments, but overall, it was a performance worth forgetting from deep.
Alabama went 5-for-28 (19%) from beyond the arc.
Alabama hadn’t shot that poorly from three-point range since the season opener against Longwood when it went 3-for-28.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama basketball escapes with win over Mississippi State to stay undefeated in SEC play