MSU-Alabama Pregame: Steele Makes His Return

Today’s game: MSU (7-17, 2-10 SEC) at Alabama (17-8, 9-3), 7 p.m., SEC Network (Dave Neal play-by-play, Jon Sundvold analyst), XM 201, Sirius 94.


Mississippi State, per usual, is nowhere near full strength tonight, but at least it has Jalen Steele back. The junior guard has had his three-game suspension lifted and is available for this game. Perhaps he can aid MSU’s effort to snap a 10-game losing skid.

You can read my game advance in today’s Journal.

There’s a good bit on the line for Alabama, which is trying to work its way into the NCAA tournament field. And now an SEC title is a possibility, as a win tonight puts the Crimson Tide one game behind first-place Florida, which fell at Missouri on Tuesday.

“The best advice I got from C.M. Newton several years ago was the understanding that those tournaments at the end of the year are invitation,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “I can’t control how the invitations go out. The only thing we can control is the way we prepare and what we do on a daily basis.”

If MSU, a 15-point underdog, can pull off the upset, it’ll need to tighten up defensively. Coach Rick Ray has been emphasizing some basic principles this week. He said that in Saturday’s 80-68 loss at LSU, there were three major issues on defense that have to be fixed: transition defense, stopping middle penetration, and closing out on shots.

“We did more than enough offensively to have some success against LSU, just our defense was not very good,” Ray said.

Remember, sophomore forward Roquez Johnson is serving an indefinite suspension for MSU. So the Bulldogs have six available scholarship players.

Here’s the scouting report from today’s Journal.


MSU at Alabama

Tip: 7 p.m., Coleman Coliseum (15,383).

TV: SEC Network

Radio: MSU Network; XM 201; Sirius 94.

Series: Alabama leads, 116-73.

Last meeting: Alabama, 75-43 (Jan. 16 in Starkville)

CoachesMSU: Rick Ray, 7-17 (first season); Alabama: Anthony Grant, 156-72 overall (seventh season), 80-47 at Alabama (fourth season).

Notes: MSU has lost four in a row in Coleman Coliseum. … Alabama is second in the SEC standings and has won four of its last five games. … MSU walk-on Baxter Price has logged 36 minutes the last three games; he totaled 52 minutes over his previous 38 games. … Five of Alabama’s top six scorers are freshmen or sophomores, and they account for 72 percent of the scoring. … MSU is 1-8 in road games this season. 

MSU (7-17, 2-10 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Trivante Bloodman 6-0 So. 6.2 3.1 2.5a

G Craig Sword 6-3 Fr. 10.2 3.0 40%FG

G Fred Thomas 6-5 Fr. 10.0 3.4 1.6s

F Colin Borchert 6-8 Jr. 7.9 4.6 64%FT

C Gavin Ware 6-9 Fr. 8.9 6.7 53%FT

Key reserves

G Jalen Steele 6-3 Jr. 9.3 2.9 33%3s

G Tyson Cunningham 6-3 Jr. 2.4 2.3 1.3a

G Baxter Price 5-10 Sr. 0.0 0.1 0.1a

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 60.7

• Scoring defense: 69.1

• Field goal%: 40.6

• Opponent FG%: 44.0

• 3-point%: 27.8

• Opponent 3PT%: 35.3

• Free throw%: 65.3

• Opponent FT%: 66.9

• Rebound margin: –3.2

• Turnover margin: –1.6


Alabama (17-8, 9-3 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Trevor Releford 6-0 Jr. 14.4 2.2 2.0s

G Trevor Lacey 6-3 So. 12.0 4.0 3.2a

G Levi Randolph 6-5 So. 7.7 4.3 1.2s

G Rodney Cooper 6-6 So. 10.8 4.3 42%FG

C Moussa Gueye 7-0 Jr. 1.5 4.4 1.8b

Key reserves

F Nick Jacobs 6-8 So. 6.8 3.2 52%FG

F Devonta Pollard 6-8 Fr. 4.5 3.2 40%FG

G Retin Obasohan 6-1 R-Fr. 2.4 1.0 65%FT

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 62.4

• Scoring defense: 57.3

• Field goal%: 43.2

• Opponent FG%: 40.3

• 3-point%: 33.3

• Opponent 3PT%: 30.7

• Free throw%: 67.5

• Opponent FT%: 69.1

• Rebound margin: –1.4

• Turnover margin: +2.3

I am the online content coordinator for 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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