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Alabama can't finish off No. 20 Mississippi State

Mississippi State guard Deville Smith (33) and Alabama guard Ben Eblen (10) duel for a loose ball in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. Mississippi State guard Deville Smith (33) and Alabama guard Ben Eblen (10) duel for a loose ball in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer / January 14, 2012
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STARKVILLE, Miss.—Alabama's suffocating defense has given just about everyone trouble this season.

Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie and Dee Bost are two of the few exceptions.

Moultrie scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Bost nailed three crucial 3-pointers in the second half as No. 20 Mississippi State rallied for a 56-52 win over the Crimson Tide on Saturday.

Alabama rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to take a 46-42 lead with 5:40 remaining, 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.

"That's life in the SEC," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.

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 Tide came into the game with the SEC's best defense, giving up 55.7 points per game.

JaMychal Green led Alabama (13-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) 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.

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 game. But Bost willed the Bulldogs (15-3, 2-1) to victory, and now the Crimson Tide will have to bounce back from their first conference loss of the season.

"This is (Bost's) team. He's the head of our snake," Moultrie said with a wide grin. "As he goes, we go."

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."

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 outburst, missing his first four 3-point attempts.

But he was perfect during the game's most important moments, 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 halftime 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 Tide plenty of problems with his athleticism and touch around the basket. He made 10 of 14 shots 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 while Bost was taking -- and making -- all the big shots.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP

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