Men’s basketball sets sights on another top-25 win


Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Alabama is set to face off against No. 22 Mississippi State in Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The Crimson Tide is looking to bounce back from a 73-68 road loss to Baylor on Saturday, while the Bulldogs are traveling to Tuscaloosa after a convincing 92-84 home win over Auburn. Although Mississippi State (15-4) boasts a much better record than Alabama (12-7), both teams have a 3-3 record in conference play.

Facing a veteran laden Mississippi State squad

Having returned all five of its starters from last year’s campaign, the Bulldogs are one of the most experienced teams in the SEC. Mississippi State is led offensively by Quinndary Weatherspoon, who is second in the SEC in scoring with 17.3 points per game. However, coach Avery Johnson knows that the Bulldogs are not just a one-man show.

“You can’t mess around with teams like this,” Johnson said. “Lamar Peters can basically win the game by himself and both of the Weatherspoon brothers – we have enough video evidence to understand how good this team is. We better have an elevated high level of concentration and focus and energy and hustle and teamwork to give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Battle of the Boards

Baylor’s win over Alabama was largely fueled by dominance on the boards. The Bears became just the second team to outrebound the Crimson Tide this season, securing 35 rebounds. Nearly half of Baylor’s rebounds came on offense, which resulted in numerous second chance shots while also hampering Alabama’s ability to control the pace of the game. 

Them getting second shots kind of deflated our offense in a way that we couldn’t run in the fast break,” Norris said. 

Besides its poor showing against Baylor, Alabama has been a stout rebounding team. The Crimson Tide is led by senior Donta Hall, who averages nearly nine rebounds per game. Overall, Alabama ranks second in the SEC in rebounding, averaging 39.1 boards per contest.

“We’ve been an outstanding rebounding team this year, but not in the game against Baylor,” Johnson said. “That was a big point of emphasis for us going into the game and we were unsuccessful in winning the rebound game.”

Alabama will look to get back to its dominance on the glass against Mississippi State, who currently ranks ninth in the SEC in rebounding with 36.3 rebounds per game.

 Close-Game Woes

Alabama has shown a propensity for playing in close games this season; some of which have resulted in thrilling wins, others in disheartening defeats. Including the Crimson Tide’s five-point loss to Baylor on Saturday, six of Alabama’s seven losses have been by single digits. Three of those seven losses have come by three points or less.

While Alabama’s past opponents should receive credit for stepping up late, several of the close losses can be attributed to a lack of late-game execution by the Crimson Tide. According to junior Dazon Ingram, one of the veteran leaders on the team, Alabama needs to improve its practice habits to succeed in close games.

“It all comes from practice,” Ingram said. “Toward the end of practice, I feel like we just need to lock in more instead of just playing around at the end.”

Although the close losses have added up, Norris doesn’t think past failures will cause doubt to creep into the players’ minds in close games.

“I think we’ve just got to be more focused in those times of when it’s close like that,” Norris said. “But at the same time we can’t let the last games affect how we play in that moment. Just about every game this season has been close besides the Ole Miss game. We’ve been in close games; we’ve just got to know what wins.”

Improved Energy

Johnson was dissatisfied with Alabama’s energy in its loss to Baylor. The Crimson Tide men’s basketball team uses a system similar to the one used by Alabama football to track its players’ energy, and the results against the Bears were discouraging.

“We have other ways to track our energy with this Catapult system and it’s the lowest our energy has been in three years in the game at Baylor,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we’ll get back in practice today and get rested and ready to play against another really good SEC opponent in Mississippi State.”

Improved energy will be critical to success against the Bulldogs.