Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6) lost an overtime thriller by 4 to LSU last Tuesday then turned around and lost by 4 to Kentucky on Saturday. Both were heartbreakingly frustrating games and were tough pills to swallow. MSU lost their hold on a large lead on LSU, then erased a huge deficit against Kentucky and ended up losing both. The Bulldogs had chances to win both the games and add two more great wins to their resumé, but now the task is ahead of them. Mississippi State lost 83-79 in Tuscaloosa 2 weeks ago and look to take revenge as the Crimson Tide come to The Hump on Tuesday night.
Alabama (15-8, 6-4) is on a 2-game winning streak and has won 3 of their last 4. The Bulldogs are the exact opposite; 2-game losing streak, and lost 3 of the last 4. MSU lost those games by a total of 12 points. Mississippi State has had trouble closing out games recently, but they are coming off their best half of basketball against the No. 5 team in the country.
Alabama has had a lot of trouble forcing turnovers this season. The Crimson Tide rank 344th (10th worst in the country) in steals per game with 4.43. Mississippi State, on the other hand, is tied for 34th in country and forcing 7.96 steals every game. The way the Bulldogs got back into the game against Kentucky was trapping on defense and forcing turnovers and eventually made a 20-2 run in the 2nd half to get back into the game.
Reggie Perry’s breakout party started against the Tide in Tuscaloosa 2 weeks ago. Perry scored 18 off the bench, had 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He has been a force down low since that game and has been properly utilized since then. Perry got in foul trouble against UK so he didn't see his usual amount of minutes, but he still made a significant impact. His dominance in the paint will continue against Bama.
Alabama’s Donta Hall was a big factor to why the Tide left their arena with a win against the Bulldogs, but that was one of his best games all season. He has scored 8, 3, and 7; rebounded 10, 8, 4; and only has one assist to his name in those last 3 outings. Freshman Kira Lewis Jr. is still the leading scorer for the Tide with 14.3 points per game. In those same 3 games, Lewis Jr. averaged 18.3 points, 4 assists, and 2.3 rebounds.
Currently, Mississippi State is top-50 in 3-point %, top-35 in steals, top-60 in scoring, and Quinndary Weatherspoon is 92nd in the country in Free-Throw %. In the past 5 games, MSU is averaging 81.4 points while also giving up 81. Alabama is scoring 76 points in their last 5 games and allowing 75.4. On paper, this game looks like it will be a shoot out until the final buzzer sounds, but coming off a great game against Kentucky, MSU is likely bursting with confidence and just realized they can hang with anyone in the country. When Ben Howland puts the right players on the floor together, there aren't many teams that can stop the Bulldogs from blowing the roof off the arena. With the Bulldogs’ schedule lightening up, this game against Alabama is the first one that will get them back to .500 in the SEC. Go Dawgs and Hail State!