GAME NOTES: The Alabama Crimson Tide return home to Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night to face off with the Mississippi State Bulldogs in an SEC showdown.
Mississippi State has been stellar all season long at 11-4, and although it dropped its SEC opener in a tough road matchup with nationally-ranked Kentucky on Jan. 8 (85-63), it got back in the win column at home on Saturday against Ole Miss (76-72). Despite their strong campaign, the Bulldogs are 0-2 in true road games.
Meanwhile, Alabama has had a disappointing first two months of the season with more losses than wins (7-8). The Tide are also 1-1 in the SEC, defeating Vanderbilt (68-63) before falling at Georgia (66-58), but the good news in this matchups is that they have performed well at home, with all of their wins coming at Coleman Coliseum (7-2).
After 190 meetings in the storied all-time series, Alabama holds to a 117-73 edge. The Tide have won five of the last six contests and are 37-8 against the Bulldogs at Coleman Coliseum.
In a back-and-forth contest with their bitter intrastate rival over the weekend, the Bulldogs outlasted Ole Miss by snapping a 72-72 tie with a 4-0 run to close out the game in the final minute. They shot just 37.9 percent from the field, but it held Ole Miss to only 37.7 percent and outscored it at the foul line, 28-10. Roquez Johnson shined in reserve minutes with 20 points and seven rebounds. Craig Sword had 15 points on a busy afternoon from the stripe (15-of-18), while Colin Borchert and Fred Thomas netted 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Mississippi State is able to successfully outpace its opponents this season by shooting 45.1 percent from the field for a +3.4 scoring margin, although its scoring offense (70.7 ppg) and scoring defense (67.3 ppg) still rank in the bottom half of the SEC. Sword scores 14.7 ppg on 53.1 percent from the field and is a strong perimeter defender with more than two steals per contest. Gavin Ware (10.4 ppg) ranks third in the league in rebounding with 9.0 per tilt, and Borchert (10.2 ppg) and Johnson (9.9 ppg) are also regular contributors.
The Tide actually played impressive defense in their most recent contest, as they held Georgia to just 32.6 percent shooting from the field, but they could not take advantage with their shots from the floor (.365) and were outscored from the line (31-16) and outrebounded (41-32) in the eight-point setback. Trevor Releford was just 1-of-8 from 3-point range but still finished with 17 points and helped out on the other end as well with four steals. Rodney Cooper scored 15 off the bench and Shannon Hale rounded out the double-digit scorers with 14 points.
Despite its losing record this season, Alabama has statistically outperformed its opponents by shooting 45.8 percent from the field for 71.3 ppg while allowing 66.4 ppg on just 41.3 percent shooting. It also makes claim to an impressive +1.9 turnover margin. Releford (18.2 ppg) is one of the nation's most efficient guards, shooting 50.6 percent from the field (including 38.4 percent from beyond the arc) and 92.9 percent from the free-throw line. Retin Obasohan brings 12.4 ppg to the table, and both he and Releford are great defenders with a combined 75 steals. Levi Randolph (9.5 ppg) and Nick Jacobs (9.1 ppg) are solid as well.
While Mississippi State has been the more impressive team this season, it has yet to prove itself on the road, and Coleman Coliseum is still a very difficult place to play. Expect the Tide's home success to continue.
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