STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Alabama's Levi Randolph had 13 points and seven rebounds, including a game-clinching free throw with 4.8 seconds left, to lead the Tide to a 55-51 victory at Mississippi State Tuesday night in Southeastern Conference play.
It marked the fifth straight win for Alabama (15-9, 5-6) against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs dropped their second straight game and fell to 11-13 and 4-7.
Shannon Hale had 14 points to lead Alabama. The Bulldogs got 13 points each from Gavin Ware and Craig Sword.
"I was proud of our guys' effort today and I thought our defense in both halves was the difference," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. "We really struggled offensively in the first half but I was proud of the way our guys rallied around each other and stayed the course. It was a great team win that we needed with seven games left."
Mississippi State shot 37 percent from the field (17 of 46) while Alabama was only at 33 percent shooting (17 of 52). But the Crimson Tide made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 33 seconds to clinch the victory.
The Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers and Alabama produced 18 points off those turnovers. Alabama made just 5 of 27 beyond the arc while the Bulldogs were even worse with a 2 of 12 showing from 3-point territory. The Crimson Tide was 16 of 22 at the free throw line and Mississippi State was 15 of 23.
Mississippi State out-rebounded Alabama 37-33 and got a game-high eight boards from Ware.
"We continue to have stat lines when you look at the box score that are really amazing," said Mississippi State coach Rick Ray. "We hold a team to 32 percent shooting, out-rebound them and get to the free throw line more and still end up with a loss.
"The first thing is we are killing ourselves with our inability to take care of the basketball. The next thing is we've got to do a better job of knocking down free throws because we are doing a good job of getting to the rim and getting fouled."
Alabama led 52-44 with just under one minute left before the Bulldogs produced back-to-back steals and scored four points in five seconds. Trailing 52-48, the Bulldogs managed to get within 54-51 before Randolph sank the game-clinching free throw.
The opening minutes featured several ties and lead changes until Mississippi State experienced a long scoring drought from the field. The Bulldogs held a 17-14 lead before missing ten consecutive shots and Alabama took advantage with an 11-1 run. During that stretch, Mississippi State went more than eight minutes without a field goal as the Crimson Tide built a 25-18 lead.
"We didn't get into a rhythm early," said Mississippi State sophomore I.J. Ready. "We shared the ball better in the second half to get us going but we were not clicking in the first half. We were not on the same page and then we didn't finish on a lot of plays that could've helped us keep the momentum."
Trailing 25-21 at the break, Mississippi State shot just 36 percent in the first half and committed 11 turnovers. Alabama also shot 36 percent in the first half but scored 13 points off Bulldog turnovers.
Mississippi State: Junior Gavin Ware now has 606 career rebounds, which ranks 19th all-time in school history. Junior Craig Sword is 59 points away from reaching 1,000-points.
Alabama: Tuesday's contest was the 192nd all-time meeting between Alabama and Mississippi State, the most games of any series for Alabama. Tide coach Anthony Grant is now 8-2 all-time against Mississippi State. Tuesday marked the sixth straight game for Alabama scoring 62 points or less.
Mississippi State travels to Missouri on Saturday.
Alabama hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.