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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 16, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Humphrey Coliseum (10,500) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: CSS, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Alabama 6-3, MSU 5-1. Away Record: Alabama 1-3, MSU 1-3. Neutral Record: Alabama 2-0, MSU 1-3. Conference Record: Alabama 1-1, MSU 2-0. Series Record: Alabama leads, 115-73.
GAME NOTES: Mississippi State attempts to build upon its lengthy winning streak on Wednesday night, as it entertains SEC rival Alabama at Humphrey Coliseum.
Alabama's season got off to a flying start at 6-0, but since Dec. 1 it has gone downhill in a hurry with losses in six of its last nine contests. The Crimson Tide was able to win its first SEC game of the year last Saturday with a 68-65 decision over Tennessee, but now the team leaves the comforts of Tuscaloosa where it has gone just 1-3 in true road games.
Mississippi State opened up its SEC slate last week with a pair of wins versus South Carolina (56-54) and at Georgia (72-61), to give it three straight victories. The Bulldogs hadn't won back-to-back bouts all season before their current run, and they are back to .500 for the first time since they were 1-1.
These longtime rivals have met 188 times previously, with Alabama winning 115 of those matchups. The teams split last season's series with each prevailing on its home floor.
In a back-and-forth game against Tennessee last weekend, Alabama was able to take control down the stretch thanks in large part to an 8-of-8 showing from the foul line in the final five minutes. For the game, it shot 16-of-19 from the stripe, which helped made up for a modest shooting night overall (.426). Trevor Lacey and Trevor Releford led the way with 15 points apiece, while Levi Randolph and Andrew Steele added 12 and 11 points, respectively. On the season, the Tide hasn't scored as often as it would like, putting up less than 66 ppg, but the squad is able to tighten things up at the defensive end by permitting just 40.7 percent field goal efficiency for an average of 60.9 ppg. Releford is one of the SEC's best guards, as he shoots better than 48 percent from the floor for 16.3 ppg, and that number has shot up to 20.5 ppg in conference bouts. Lacey (12.5 ppg, 3.3 apg) is also effective thanks in most part to his 41.8 percent effort from 3-point range. Rodney Cooper rounds out the Tide's double-digit scorers with 11.7 ppg.
Mississippi State won its first road game of the season last Saturday by outshooting Georgia, 46.3 percent to 32.8 percent. Jalen Steele connected on 4-of-8 shots from 3-point range on his way to 21 points, while also adding a team-high seven rebounds. Craig Sword chipped in with 16 points and a pair of steals in a performance that helped him earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors. While the Bulldogs found success from the field in their latest win, they usually have difficultly putting up points, ranking 12th in the SEC with 63.2 ppg, and although they attempt more than 15 3-pointers per game, they shoot a league-low 27.8 percent from distance. Roquez Johnson leads the way with 12.0 ppg and he also adds 5.2 rpg and nearly a block per contest. Steele (11.5 ppg) has appeared in just six games and has been a huge boost to the lineup, while Fred Thomas (10.0 ppg) and Sword (9.6 ppg) have also been effective.
These two teams are trending in opposite directions at the moment, and with MSU having both the hot hand and the home court advantage, the Bulldogs have an excellent shot at knocking off the Crimson Tide.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 65, Alabama 63
01/16 10:34:04 ET