Tide looking for second win over Bulldogs this season


CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

After securing a road win against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Alabama (15-8, 6-4 SEC) is headed to Starkville to face Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6 SEC) on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. It will be the second meeting between the teams this season. Here’s what you need to know about the matchup:

On the road again 

Prior to Alabama’s win at Vanderbilt on Saturday, the Crimson Tide lost its last three road contests, falling to Auburn, Baylor and No. 1 Tennessee.

Although Vanderbilt sits at the bottom of the SEC standings, Alabama’s win against the Commodores at Memorial Gymnasium – its first in that arena since 2013 – could give the Crimson Tide a boost heading into its road clash against Mississippi State.

“Anytime you can win on the road in the SEC it’s a major plus,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.

Overall, Alabama is just 3-5 on the road this season, compared to a much more favorable 9-2 mark at home.

A familiar foe 

When Alabama and Mississippi State play on Tuesday night, it will be the 201st time that the teams have clashed on the hard wood. The Crimson Tide has played the Bulldogs more than any other opponent in program history, and holds a 125-75 advantage in the storied series.

The last installment in the long-running rivalry came less than two weeks ago, when the Crimson Tide claimed an 83-79 victory in Coleman Coliseum. After leading for the majority of the contest, Alabama withheld a late push to defeat Mississippi State.

“. . . This quick turnaround, playing Mississippi State again, we can basically use our game that we played against Mississippi State in our scouting report,” Johnson said. “Obviously, they just lost to Kentucky, and you still pull pluses and minuses from the Kentucky game, but when you play a team this close together, you primarily, for us, looking at in terms of evaluation, our game against Mississippi State.”

While Johnson said that it’s not any easier or harder playing an opponent for the second time in the same season, guard Dazon Ingram thinks that the familiarity between the teams adds an increased level of difficulty to the second matchup.

“It’s probably tougher because we both know what each other does,” Ingram said.

In regards to what areas Alabama needs to improve on in its second matchup with the Bulldogs, Ingram highlighted transition defense.

“For us, you got to stop the ball in transition,” Ingram said. “They got a lot of transition points on us, I think they had like 22, so we’ve just got to really get back and focus on transition defense.”

Slowing down Perry

If there was a silver-lining in Mississippi State’s last loss to Alabama, it was the play of forward Reggie Perry. A consensus five-star recruit and 2018 McDonald’s All-American, Perry had been relatively dormant for the majority of his freshman season with the Bulldogs until he torched Alabama for a then season-high 18 points. He went on to top that by posting 21 points and 19 points in his next two games.

“We thought that was kind of his coming out party,” Johnson said. “He really started to put his stamp on the SEC and show that he’s really arrived. He really put it together in that game. He shot the ball well, rebounded. We couldn’t handle him inside.”

Kentucky managed to limit Perry to just two points in its win over Mississippi State on Saturday. Mimicking the Wildcats ability to shut down the rapidly-improving freshman will be critical to Alabama’s chances of capturing another win over the Bulldogs. Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, it may be without two of its key big men on Tuesday night.

Injury update

Johnson said that forward Galin Smith is progressing well after suffering a concussion during the Georgia game last week. He is still in concussion protocol and will be a game-time decision against Mississippi State.

As for forward Alex Reese, who sat out Alabama’s win over Vanderbilt with “flu-like” symptoms, he will also be a game-time decision.