Alabama-MSU Pregame: Sword’s Presence, Releford’s Absence Big Factors

Today’s game: Alabama (9-6, 1-1 SEC) at MSU (7-7, 2-0), 8 p.m., CSS, (Matt Stewart play-by-play, Kyle Macey analyst), ESPN3.com

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Mississippi State will try to ride its wave of momentum tonight, going for its fourth consecutive win and a 3-0 start in SEC play. That would be quite the accomplishment for this team.

As you can read in today’s Journal, freshman guard Craig Sword has had a lot to do with MSU’s recent surge. He’s scored 34 points over the last two games and was named SEC freshman of the week, and he played well at Georgia on Saturday despite a sprained left ankle. He’s expected to play tonight despite being very limited in practice.

Speaking of key players and ankle injuries, Alabama point guard Trevor Releford is doubtful for tonight. He hurt his ankle in practice on Monday. So that could even things up tonight, because Alabama is a better shooting team than MSU – but then, so is most of the league. Releford leads the Crimson Tide in scoring at 16.3 points per game (seventh in the SEC). You’ll likely see Trevor Lacey running the point tonight, and he does lead the team in assists (3.3 per game).

Vegas has made Alabama a 2.5-point favorite. This game being at Humphrey Coliseum, you have to give the Bulldogs a fighting chance, especially if Jalen Steele keeps up his hot shooting and if Sword can continue to be effective. MSU could find a bit of an advantage in the post if Gavin Ware gets going again, because Bama is a guard-heavy team and doesn’t have an imposing post presence.

Here’s something I should’ve done the last couple of games: The scouting report from today’s Journal. So here’s the skinny on tonight’s matchup.

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Alabama at MSU

Tip: 8 p.m., Humphrey Coliseum (10,500)

TV: CSS, ESPN3.com

Radio: MSU Network; Sirius 94; XM 190.

Series: Alabama leads, 115-73.

Last year: MSU, 56-52 in Starkville; Alabama, 67-50 in Tuscaloosa.

CoachesAlabama: Anthony Grant, 148-70 overall (seventh season), 78-45 at Alabama (fourth season); MSU: Rick Ray, 7-7 (first season).

Notes: MSU has won 12 of its last 15 meetings with Alabama in Starkville. … Alabama is coming off a 68-65 home win over Tennessee on Saturday. … Alabama ranks 13th in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage (65.0), while MSU is 14th (64.3). … MSU’s Colin Borchert is fifth in the SEC in blocked shots (1.6 per game).

Alabama (9-6, 1-1 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Trevor Lacey 6-3 So. 12.5 3.9 3.3a

G Levi Randolph 6-5 So. 8.1 3.7 1.9a

G Rodney Cooper 6-6 So. 11.7 4.4

F Devonta Pollard 6-8 Fr. 5.8 3.5 1.0b

F Nick Jacobs 4.9 2.9 43%FG

Key reserves

G Andrew Steele 6-4 Sr. 4.8 2.5 75%FT

G Retin Obasohan 6-1 R-Fr. 2.5 1.1 34%FG

C Moussa Gueye 7-0 Jr. 1.1 4.5 1.2b

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 65.9

• Scoring defense: 60.9

• Field goal%: 44.6

• Opponent FG%: 40.7

• 3-point%: 34.3

• Opponent 3PT%: 32.1

• Free throw%: 70.9

• Opponent FT%: 70.0

• Rebound margin: –0.9

• Turnover margin: +1.9

Mississippi State (7-7, 2-0 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Trivante Bloodman 6-0 So. 5.8 3.6 2.9a

G Jalen Steele 6-3 Jr. 11.5 3.7 43%3s

G Craig Sword 6-3 Fr. 9.6 3.2 40%FG

F Colin Borchert 6-8 Jr. 7.6 4.8 75%FT

C Gavin Ware 6-9 Fr. 8.4 7.1 1.1b

Key reserves

F Roquez Johnson 6-8 So. 12.0 5.2 1.0s

G Fred Thomas 6-5 Fr. 10.0 3.4 1.8s

G Tyson Cunningham 6-3 Jr. 2.6 3.0 44%3s

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 63.2

• Scoring defense: 62.5

• Field goal%: 41.4

• Opponent FG%: 39.6

• 3-point%: 27.8

• Opponent 3PT%: 33.6

• Free throw%: 65.8

• Opponent FT%: 61.8

• Rebound margin: +0.4

• Turnover margin: +0.1

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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