TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama men’s basketball team is preparing for its second and final matchup of the regular season against Mississippi State on Tuesday.
Just two weeks ago, the Crimson Tide defeated the then-No. 20 Bulldogs 83-79 in Coleman Coliseum. Mississippi State is no longer ranked in the AP Top 25, but is still No. 21 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
A win against the Bulldogs in the tough environment of Humphrey Coliseum would be a big addition to the Crimson Tide’s NCAA Tournament resume.
“Any time you can win on the road in the SEC is a major plus,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “This quick turnaround playing Mississippi State again, we can basically use our game that we played against Mississippi State in our scouting report.
“When you play a team this close together you’re primarily looking at, in terms of evaluation, our game against Mississippi State.”
For the most part the Crimson Tide played well at Vanderbilt, where it out-rebounded the Commodores 42-31, shot for 50 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. However, there was an eight-minute stretch when Alabama weakened, and allowed Vanderbilt to have a 13-0 run to cut the lead to five points.
“We’ve got to do a better job of not beating ourselves,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve done that these last couple of games.”
So far this season, Alabama has typically played well when it is ahead. However, it has also routinely run into trouble when that lead becomes too large, leading to comebacks and close games against teams like Texas A&M, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.
The Crimson Tide will have to manage the ball better if it wants to avoid making the same mistakes against Mississippi State.
Alabama at Mississippi State is scheduled for an 8 p.m. CT tip (SEC Network).
Here’s five things to know about Alabama (15-8, 6-4 SEC) at Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6):
1] Last week's wins against Georgia and Vanderbilt marked the first time that Alabama has had back-to-back wins since Jan. 5, when the Crimson Tide defeated Kentucky after beating Penn State and Stephen F. Austin. Since that time, Alabama has struggled to gain any sort of momentum, which will play into account in this matchup.
2] Opposite of the Crimson Tide, Mississippi State is coming off back-to-back losses. The Bulldogs have had a tough schedule of late, playing No. 21 LSU and No. 5 Kentucky in subsequent matchups. With the loss to Alabama on Jan. 29, MSU has lost three out of its last four games, with its only win being over in-state rival Ole Miss.
3] Senior Quinndary Weatherspoon leads the Bulldogs with 17.9 points per game, which is also third-best in the Southeastern Conference. Weatherspoon also averages 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals. He ranks fifth in free-throw percentage at .842, and is fourth in field goal percentage at .495.
4] Seven of the Crimson Tide’s remaining games are either Quadrant 1 (4) or Quadrant 2 (3) opponents. So far this season, Alabama is 2-5 against Q1 teams, and 6-0 against Q2 opposition. Alabama’s perfect Q2 record is second only to the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers, who are 7-0 on the season.
5] Johnson said that sophomores Galin Smith and Alex Reese are game-time decisions. Smith is still under concussion protocol, while Reese reported feeling sick over the weekend. Reese was feeling better before Monday's practice.