TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team will conclude its two-game homestand when it hosts the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday night. The contest is set to tip off at 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on the SEC Network.
"We have six games remaining in conference so, for our guys, every game is critical," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "We're excited to be in a position where we control our destiny as we head to the conference tournament. The focus right now is to take it one game at a time and understand what we have to do each individual game. With Mississippi State coming up, a game that we played earlier in the conference season, the score was one sided but I think that myself, the staff and the players understand that it was an eight point game at the half. We're dealing with a team that is going through some struggles right now but has guys that are capable, so we have to bring our best focus, our best energy and play up to where we're capable of playing."
The Crimson Tide (17-8, 9-3 SEC) enters the game alone in second place overall in the SEC standings. UA is one of the hottest teams in the league, having won three straight and nine of its last 11 games coming into Wednesday's contest. Most recently, the Tide captured a 68-58 victory over South Carolina this past Saturday. Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey led three players in double figures with 17 points on the day. Sophomores Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs chipped in with 10 apiece, while sophomore Levi Randolph tied career highs with nine rebounds and four steals.
It marked the 10th straight game that UA has held the opposition to under 60 points in a game, and the 17th time in 25 games this year that the Tide has achieved the feat. Alabama owns a record of 13-4 when holding opponents to under 60 points on the year.
Junior guard Trevor Releford, who did not play in the first meeting at Mississippi State (Jan. 16) due to an ankle injury, comes into the game as the team's top scorer. A preseason All-SEC honoree, Releford ranks eighth in the league in scoring at 14.4 ppg. He also tops the squad in three-point field goal percentage (.403), steals per game (2.0) and free throw shooting (.821), and ranks second on the team in assists (2.6 apg).
Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game. Coming into Wednesday's contest, Lacey leads the team in threes made (44) and attempted (113) and assists (3.2 apg).
Combined, the duo of Releford and Lacey contribute 26.4 points per game, or approximately 42 percent of the team's 62.4 points per game.
Meanwhile, Cooper also averages double figures with 10.8 ppg and has reached double-digits in five consecutive contests coming into Wednesday's match-up. He leads the team in offensive rebounding (2.1 orpg) and total field goals attempted (240).
Mississippi State (7-17, 2-10) enters its contest at Alabama on a 10-game losing streak, which began with a home loss to the Crimson Tide back on Jan. 16. Most recently, the Bulldogs fell at LSU, 80-68, on Saturday. Freshman guard Craig Sword led the Bulldogs with a career-high 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor in the losing effort.
Sword, along with freshman guard Fred Thomas, are the only two MSU players to average in double figures, with 10.2 and 10.0 points per game, respectively. Sword tops the squad in steals per game (1.6) and is second in assists per game (1.9), while Thomas leads the team in threes made (32) and attempted (130).
Alabama and Mississippi State will meet for the second time this season, and the 190th time in series history - the most times UA has played any one opponent in program history. The Tide owns a 116-73 edge in the all-time series, including four of the last five contests played between the two teams.
In the first meeting between the two teams, Alabama captured a 75-43 road win at Mississippi State. Levi Randolph led the charge with a career-high tying 18 points, while Nick Jacobs came off the bench to record a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards. It was the Tide's most lopsided SEC win of the year and the most points UA has scored in league play this season.
The contest can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink on the call. Fans can follow the in-game action with live tweets on the team's official Twitter page @AlabamaMBB.
Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant
On whether Alabama's second half in Starkville was the best half of the year:
"We shot the ball well. I think we hit five 3-pointers in a row. So from a shooting standpoint, we played well. I thought the story of that game was the way we defended, we forced a lot of turnovers and those turnovers really translated into opportunities for us in transition."
On Trevor Lacey playing more of the point guard position as of late:
"Last several games, I think Lacey has been more at the one [position] than he had before. So from that standpoint, for the last several weeks that's the way we've gone. Both of those guys share duties. I feel like for our basketball team, it flows a little bit better for us."
On the latest on Andrew Steele:
"He's doubtful for this game. We're monitoring it. He's still having some of the same issues as before and it's going to be a deal where we get him as much rest as we can to where he feels good and as relatively pain free as possible. I would say it's a thing that we'll manage day-to-day, game-to-game, week-to-week."
On how advancement in technology and video has changed college basketball:
"That's a great question. It's probably as advanced as I've ever seen it in terms of what's available. Either the technology that's available to individual schools through different forms of video services, or the synergy component that's out there that allows you to get instant access to any games that are on TV and the way they are broken down or analyze personnel. It's a lot different than when I first started in the business where you went deck-to-deck so to speak. VCR-to-VCR trying to cut and splice and get personnel and then rewind the tape again and go get plays, then rewind it again and get underneath-out-of-bounds sets. So yes, it's extremely advanced compared to where it was 20 years ago and I think it's a big advantage. Our guys right now have downloaded stuff on iPads where they look at personnel and information about different teams in terms of scouting reports and different videos, so it's a new day in technology. It certainly gives you a tremendous advantage if you take advantage of it."
On differences between Mississippi State now and the first game:
"The first time we played them, they were 2-0 in the league. They had momentum in their favor. We were 1-1. Obviously, they've had some difficulties here of late. I can't speak for their coach, but kind of like we talked about with Coach [Frank] Martin and his comments, any time you take over a program and you're trying to build and change a culture and establish your identity, there's going to be some things that happen over the course of doing that. I think they are going through some of that. For us, we expect, with them being an hour away from our campus and it being a rivalry, a tremendous effort and great energy in the building and we've got to be able to match that and surpass it."