STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Arnett Moultrie did the dirty work. Dee Bost got all the glory.
But there was no jealousy during the postgame celebration after No. 20 Mississippi State rallied in the final minutes to beat Alabama 56-52 on Saturday.
“This is (Bost’s) team. He’s the head of our snake,” Moultrie said with a wide grin. “As he goes, we go.”
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Moultrie scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against a stingy Crimson Tide defense for his ninth double-double of the season, but it was three clutch 3-pointers from Bost in the final minutes that pushed Mississippi State (15-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to the victory.
Moultrie didn’t mind deferring during the most important part of the game. The way Bost was shooting, no one was going to argue.
“Bost is one of those guys who can step up and take shots,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “We live with the bad shots he takes because he can get on a roll and he did that today at a critical time.”
Alabama trailed 33-23 early in the second half but methodically worked its way back into the game with timely baskets and lockdown defense. The Crimson Tide came into the game with the SEC’s best defense, giving up 55.7 points per game.
Alabama pushed ahead 46-42 with 5:40 left, but then Bost’s 3-point barrage began. His last one — when he was falling away and shot over a defender — gave the Bulldogs a 51-48 lead with 1:32 remaining.
JaMychal Green led Alabama (13-4, 2-1) with 14 points. Tony Mitchell and Trevor Lacey each added eight points, but it wasn’t enough as the Tide’s winning streak was snapped at five games.
The Tide didn’t have a bad game, shooting 23 of 51 from the field (45.1 percent) and forcing Mississippi State’s guards to take tough shots for the majority of the afternoon. But Bost willed the Bulldogs to victory, and now the Crimson Tide will have to bounce back from their first conference loss of the season.
“That’s life in the SEC,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
Green pulled Alabama to 51-50 with 1:20 left after making two free throws. Mississippi State’s Brian Bryant responded with a short running jumper — his first basket of the game — to give the Bulldogs a 53-50 lead with 10 seconds remaining. Bryant also made a layup on a full-court pass from Bost with 1.2 seconds left that sealed the victory.
Bost’s 3-pointers might just be the signal that a lengthy shooting slump is over. He shot just 21 of 76 from the field (27.6 percent) over the past six games, and was having another rough game before the scoring outburst, missing his first four 3-point attempts.
Bost was key in the clutch, splashing home three straight from beyond the arc as the crowd in a sold-out Humphrey Coliseum roared.
He finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
Until the frantic final minutes, it was a grinding, halfcourt game that focused on each team’s post players.
Moultrie got the best of the matchup, with 14 points and seven rebounds in the first half. His tip-in at the buzzer gave the Bulldogs a 27-21 lead.
“He was really active,” Alabama’s Andrew Steele said. “With his length he was really tough to deal with.”
The 6-foot-11 Moultrie has been one of the SEC’s most productive players, averaging 15.9 points and 10.8 rebounds, and he gave the Crimson Tide plenty of problems with his athleticism and touch around the basket. He made 10 of 14 shots from the field and 5 of 7 from the free throw line.
“Arnett was a man today, and we were very conscious about trying to get him the basketball,” Stansbury said.
He was quiet in the game’s final minutes, but that was because Bost was taking — and making — all the shots.