MSU overcomes turnovers to win
By By Austin Bishop / EMG regional sports director
Jan. 3, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. So much for the University of Alabama-Birmingham's imaginary dominance over Mississippi State on the basketball court.
The No. 8-ranked Bulldogs, now 10-1 on the season, shook off a crazy case of the turnovers early in the game to blow past the homestanding Blazers 68-52 before a barely partisan crowd of 8,014 at UAB's Bartow Arena.
The victory was the fifth straight away from the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs return home Tuesday to take on No. 12-ranked Florida at 8 p.m. before a national television audience on ESPN.
UAB held a 4-1 lead and four-game winning streak in the series that began in 1983, but the last time the two teams played was in 1993.
The Blazers came into the game with an 8-2 record but those wins came over the likes of Birmingham-Southern, West Alabama, Nicholls State and Alabama A&M. At the same time, MSU was preparing for SEC play by knocking off the likes of then No. 11-ranked Xavier (Ohio) and then No. 5-ranked Oklahoma.
The difference was obvious.
Turnovers were definitely the story of the game in the early going. While the Bulldogs were making them at an amazing rate five in their first seven possessions and 11 in the first 10 minutes of the contest the Blazers couldn't do anything with the opportunities.
The Bulldogs essentially dispatched the Blazers in a seven-minute span late in the second half.
After UAB's Jeffery Collins scored to tie the game at 14-14 with 8:41 to play in the first half, State went on a 24-5 run on the way to a 38-21 halftime advantage.
That spurt started on the defensive end of the floor.
Senior point guard Derrick Zimmerman said the Bulldogs don't get the credit they deserve for playing great defense.
UAB seemed to be intimidated on the inside in the early going, resorting to firing up several off-balance long-range shots.
Morris Finley, who came in averaging 18.5 points per game, had a horrific first half, going 1-for-7 from the floor, including missing all five of his three-point attempts.
The Blazers could get no closer than 15 points in the second half, while State's lead was as big as 20 52-32 with 10:01 to play in the half.
With the game firmly in hand the Bulldogs worked on its half-court offense in the second half, holding the ball out at times.
UAB finished the night with 36.7 percent shooting from the floor, while MSU was at 55.4 percent.
Austin led the way with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Michael Ignerski had 12 points and six boards and sophomore Winsome Frazier added 10 points.
Finley led UAB with 15 points, scoring 13 of those in the second half after the game was already decided.