The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

February 21, 2013

Hot Alabama takes 64-56 win over Mississippi State



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's Rodney Cooper turned back a Mississippi State surge with a 3-pointer and Trevor Releford helped put the Bulldogs away after that.

Cooper had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Releford scored six of his 17 in the final 3 minutes to lift streaking Alabama to a 64-56 victory over Mississippi State on Wednesday night.

Sparked by Cooper and Releford, the Crimson Tide (18-8, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) finished a lackluster second half strong to claim its fourth straight victory.

"I thought (Cooper) brought the energy and the passion that we needed, some big plays and big rebounds, that allowed us to have a chance to win," Tide coach Anthony Grant said. "Trevor's energy, especially in the second half, from a defensive standpoint he locked in and brought energy to our team and made some plays down the stretch that allowed us to preserve the win."

It was a game Alabama probably couldn't afford to lose in its late bid to make the NCAA tournament.

The Tide also closed the gap on SEC-leading Florida (11-2) after the fifth-ranked Gators lost to Missouri Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs (7-18, 2-11) cut a 13-point second-half deficit to four points before losing their 11th consecutive game to match the 1982 team for the second-longest skid in program history.

Cooper was 7-of-10 shooting for his first career double-double — scoring 15 after halftime. Releford had five assists and five of the Tide's 18 steals. Trevor Lacey added 11 points before fouling out.

Mississippi State's Jalen Steele returned from a three-game suspension for violating team rules to fuel the comeback attempt and score 15 points.

Colin Borchert had 14 points and nine rebounds for Mississippi State, which committed 23 turnovers. Craig Sword was held to six points after scoring 25 against LSU.

Bulldogs coach Rick Ray at least found a positive in his team's effort after enduring some blowouts during this stretch.

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