Who: #6 Alabama (18-6, 13-2 SEC) @ Mississippi State (13-11, 7-8 SEC)
When: 5:00pm CT, Saturday, February 27, 2021
Where: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, MS
Watch: SEC Network
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (play-by-play: Chris Stewart, analyst: Bryan Passink)
The 6th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will make its second consecutive road trip on Saturday when it travels to Humphrey Coliseum, a place where it has not won since 2017, to face Mississippi State. Alabama is coming off a tough loss to the hottest team in the SEC – Arkansas – in a game where the Tide could not get nearly any shots to fall, shooting 37% from the floor. The loss was not detrimental to their SEC regular season title hopes though, as the Tide can clinch the SEC regular season championship with a win against the Bulldogs on Saturday or an Arkansas loss to LSU.
Last time out Mississippi State beat down South Carolina, 69-48. It was one of their best defensive performances of the year, holding the Gamecocks to 29% shooting. The Bulldogs are led by their dynamic backcourt duo of DJ Stewart and Iverson Molinar, who are both in the top 5 in the SEC in scoring and both average over 16 points per game. They also boast a frontcourt monster in Tolu Smith, who is second in the SEC in rebounding. Mississippi State thrives on defense, holding opponents to 40% from the floor on the season. If Alabama wants to win on the road, the Tide will need to commit to their offense of driving into open lanes and kicking for open threes, rather than the one-pass-then-shoot settling that plagued them against Arkansas.
The first time these two squads met this season resulted in an 81-73 win for Alabama on their home floor. Mississippi State’s defense this game stifled Alabama’s previously rolling offense, and it was the first time during the January win streak that Alabama looked beatable. The game came down to a John Petty go-ahead 3 with less than a minute left to push the lead to 6 and ice the game. Alabama was outrebounded, in part thanks to Jordan Bruner being out. The impact of his return has been felt tremendously, with the added rebounding, defensive IQ, and occasional pick-and-pop three.
Alabama must get out to a fast start in order to not fall into an early hole again. In the Tide’s last 4 road games, it has opened with a 10+ point deficit in the first 5 minutes. Staying disciplined on the defensive end and not missing rotations will be the keys to slowing down MSU’s backcourt. The rebounding should be better than last time out with Bruner having returned to the lineup. Lastly, Alabama must get back to their drive-and-kick game, which will lean heavily on the shoulders of Jahvon Quinerly and Herbert Jones.
Mississippi State Players to Watch
G DJ Stewart (16.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 3.2 RPG)
G Iverson Molinar (16.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 3.7 RPG)
F Tolu Smith (12.6 PPG, 1.1 APG, 8.5 RPG)
F Derek Fountain (5.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 45.5 3PT%)
F Abdul Ado (5.3 PPG, 0.7 APG, 6.3 RPG)
The Arkansas loss should serve as a wake-up call for the Crimson Tide. Expect the rebounding to be much improved since the previous meeting and expect the offense to have significantly more paint touches and drives than we saw on Wednesday night. Jones, Petty, and Keon Ellis should be able to contain Stewart and Molinar, and Alabama will clinch its first SEC regular season title since 2002.
Alabama – 85
Miss. State – 76
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