Herb Jones’s Toughness Shines in 81-73 Victory Over Bulldogs
Sometimes things just get ugly. It gets frustrating.
Even when things look clean and headed in the right direction, something breaks.
The Crimson Tide eventually handled the Bulldogs after an early snap from the Starkville squad.
It's fitting Herb Jones will win tonight's hardhat award from head coach Nate Oats, because his entire night was synonymous with the Crimson Tide position in the game.
When Jones was on, everyone was. Of course, basketball is a team sport. But in an all-out war of a game there are those you turn to when times are trying and frustrating. That was Herb Jones Saturday night in Coleman Coliseum.
The Crimson Tide kept its cool despite how pesky the Bulldogs remained all evening.
The Bulldogs held early advantages, scoring close to 60% of its points in the paint for most of the contest and dominating the glass the entire game. Still the Crimson Tide created momentum swinging plays that kept Mississippi State at bay.
Two such plays created the initial boost the Crimson Tide needed out of the gate, and both came from number one. Jones, respected as one of the SEC's premiere defenders, blocked a mid-range shot, ran the lane, and caught an assist from Shackelford creating a destructive slam-dunk opportunity.
Immediately, on the following possession, Jones would hit another jam to extend the lead. Alabama would only relinquish the lead on three occasions, and none for more than a single possession the remainder of the contest.
Jones left the game shortly after his two dunks with a lower back injury. Though he went straight to the locker room, he returned with two minutes left in the half to play some solid defense to preserve the Tide's lead.
Postgame Oats said he told the team at halftime that his team would find themselves in tough game like this after taking the lead in the SEC.
"I told them if we're going to lose, let it be because of a missed shot, not because we got 'out-efforted,'" he said.
The team took Oats word and applied them quickly. Out of the half, the Tide would extend its lead to 11, the longest of the night. After a phantom tripping penalty forced Josh Primo, who had 12 points at the time, to head to the bench with his third foul, Alabama would see its advantage dwindle to five. Shortly afterward Jones would secure and And-one layup opening the door for the Crimson Tide to go on another run.
Jones would finish with 17 points, five rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and four steals in 37 minutes.
"Being in games like this teaches us how to stay together regardless of the scoreboard," Jones said postgame. "It teaches us how to win close games because that is what is going to matter most towards the end of the season."
Oats echoed Jones's sentiment, saying it was good to finally play in a tough game and grab the victory after a string of blowout wins.
Jones is right, though - it's a team game. Jones provided the spark, but ultimately the closing minutes came down to a team effort from the Crimson Tide. He showed the grit Alabama would need, the grit the Tide would display in the final moments to win.
Mississippi State bringing the score to 76-73 with 40 seconds remaining didn't stir Alabama. It didn't stir John Petty who sent home his fourth three-pointer of the night to put the game out of reach.
It's telling of the type of team Oats has compiled that as Petty sent that final shot towards the goal on a night he was just 3-9 from deep when Alex Reese felt no stress before the ball found the bottom of the net.
"I think every shot JP takes is going to go in," he said.
With blue-collar victory in hand, the Crimson Tide will host Kentucky Tuesday night.
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