Alabama preview

Craig Sword is averaging nine points in three career starts against Alabama.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Craig Sword is averaging nine points in three career starts against Alabama. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State wants to put its 61-41 loss at Arkansas over the weekend in the past and move on as quickly as possible.

The Bulldogs will have an opportunity to do just that following a quick three-day turnaround hosting Alabama at 8 p.m. tonight on the SEC Network.

You want to get that sour taste out of your mouth and get back on the court as soon as possible,” said MSU coach Rick Ray.

The Bulldogs (11-12, 4-6) had been playing its best basketball over the past month including signature wins against LSU and Tennessee. But State managed just two field goals and netted only nine points in the first half of Saturday’s setback in Fayetteville.

The Bulldogs were 0-of-10 from 3-point range and also committed 24 turnovers against the Razorbacks full-court pressure.

It was like we took a big step backwards,” said MSU forward Roquez Johnson. “We’re trying to go forwards like we did in the seven games before. We were getting better and (the Arkansas) game it was like we fell in a hole. Now we’re trying to dig ourselves out of that hole.”

Despite the loss to the Razorbacks, Alabama coach Anthony Grant sees Mississippi State as a much improved team of late.

 “I think Mississippi State is a team that’s playing really good basketball right now,” Grant said. “They’re coming off of a tough loss this weekend, but a great win at Tennessee, great win at home against LSU. I think they’re playing really well together. They’ve got a deep team, a team that’s got good size, good speed. They shoot the ball well. This will be a great challenge for us.”

The Crimson Tide (14-9, 4-6) are also coming off a 71-60 road loss at LSU over the weekend. Alabama has now lost three of its last four outings and six of the last eight.

The Tide are banged up and will be without the services of junior guard Ricky Tarrant (13.1 ppg) with a lower right leg injury that has kept him out the last four games. Junior guard Retin Obasohan (hand) and sophomore forward Michael Kessens (ankle) are questionable for tonight’s contest.

Senior guard Levi Randolph paces Alabama averaging 14.9 points. Randolph led the Crimson Tide with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added eight rebounds in his previous visit to Humphrey Coliseum in 2013.

I’ve always liked his game and his unselfishness,” Ray said of Randolph. “He’s a big, strong wing. I think he can shoot it, pass it and handle it. He’s obviously a very bright kid in the classroom and that carries over onto the court. I just like the way he carries himself and his whole demeanor.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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