Mississippi State concluded the first month of conference play with just a 2-6 mark.
The Bulldogs have been on the cusp with some close games over that stretch and could be close to turning things around having won two of its last three games, including ending an eight-game road losing streak at Missouri on Saturday.
“We’ve been right there in every game,” said MSU coach Ben Howland. “We’re probably a little better than our record indicates, at least in my mind. But it was good to get over the hump in the last game and we’re going to try and do it again.”
After a week on the road, the Bulldogs (9-11) return to Humphrey Coliseum hosting Alabama at 8 p.m. tonight on SEC Network hoping to end another skid. The Crimson Tide have won the last five meetings against State including a 55-51 victory in Starkville last season led by 14 points from Shannon Hale.
Alabama holds the overall series edge 119-73 but the Bulldogs are 56-37 in games played at home.
Like Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide also have a first year coach in former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson. Johnson has guided Alabama to an 11-9 start and is also 2-6 in SEC play.
“He’s done a really good job,” Howland said. “They have really good length and size inside. The major problem for us is that they’re so much bigger. I love their point guard (Retin) Obasohan. He’s just so tough and has a body that makes Nick Saban jealous. He’s special.”
Obasohan is Alabama’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game and have some big bodies down low in Hale (6-8, 233) and Jimmie Taylor (6-10, 248).
Alabama has lost four of its last five games including a 78-64 defeat at South Carolina on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are hoping to have leading scorer and rebounder Gavin Ware back available. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 15.7 points and 7.3 board but missed Saturday’s game at Missouri with concussion symptoms.
Howland stated that Ware was going through all the concussion protocols. Ware ran around the track Sunday and went through non-contact practice on Monday.
Junior point guard I.J. Ready is also questionable for tonight’s game. Ready sprained his foot and ankle last week against South Carolina but logged 22 minutes against the Tigers off the bench on Saturday going scoreless but did have seven rebounds.