Bulldogs believe they still have a chance to make some noise
MSU still has to prove it can win on the road.
By Parrish Alford
STARKVILLE - For those who may be "calendar challenged," Rick Stansbury would like to make a point.
His Mississippi State Bulldogs have enough time to overcome their slow Southeastern Conference start.
"There's a lot of basketball left to be played," Stansbury said. "Before Wednesday night we had half our (Southeastern Conference) games left. We've got to take care of business at home and go get a couple on the road.
"There are a lot of possibilities that can still happen for this basketball team."
An 84-70 win over No. 17 Alabama provided a clear mood swing for the Bulldogs (12-8, 3-6). In addition to 25 points from Marckell Patterson - 13 coming off 14 free throw attempts - State got key play from reserves T.J. Billups, Derrick Zimmerman, Tyrus Boswell and Quentin Smith.
Billups, a little-used senior, was a major factor in controlling the league's leading scorer, Alabama's Rod Grizzard. After 13 points in 11 minutes, Grizzard had 11 points the rest of the way and just three field goals in the second half.
"He really got off and did a lot of scoring when we played over there," Billups said. "I took it on myself when I got in the game to play the best defense I could possibly play."
At 6-foot-8, Grizzard can be a matchup nightmare. Billups (6-4, 205), however, presented a big, physical body to try to run around, and Grizzard committed four turnovers in the process.
Averaging 18.5 points, Grizzard had three of his five 3-pointers in the first 8 1/2 minutes of play. His last 3-pointer made it a 61-58 game with 6:52 remaining, but his turnover on the Crimson Tide's next possession led to a Tang Hamilton dunk as the Bulldogs stretched the lead again.
"I've known him all my life," said Boswell, an Alabama native, who had 10 points, three rebounds, a blocked shot and two steals. "He started the game off with some big baskets, and when he gets on a roll he can be tough to guard."
Smith, called upon with Jackson and Boswell in foul trouble, had a key blocked shot and rebound late in the game. Zimmerman gave State a lift offensively with nine points on 3-for-5 shooting. He also had two blocked shots, a steal and only one turnover in 27 mnutes.
"Going to the hole it was the best Derrick Zimmerman has finished in his career," Stansbury said.
The Alabama win gives the Bulldogs a 3-3 mark against ranked opponents this season. They also have wins against Ole Miss and Arizona.
State is back on the SEC road - where it has lost 10 consecutive games - at Kentucky Saturday.
"That game was very important from a mental standpoint, especially after losing two close games on the road," Stansbury said. "Our kids came out and fought. We have to show them that if we keep working, good things can happen."