By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – There is no time for No. 20 Mississippi State to revel in its first SEC victory of the season.
The Bulldogs (14-3, 1-1 SEC) took care of Tennessee late on Thursday night, 62-58, and now must engage a hot Alabama team at 3 p.m. today at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Crimson Tide (13-3, 2-0) has won five in a row, most recently a 69-53 win over LSU on Wednesday. The current streak comes on the heels of losing three of four during a tough non-conference slate.
“It’s a quick turnaround against one of the better teams in this league for sure,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “They’re big and physical and they’re really athletic, and they’re really going to guard you, too. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Alabama and MSU could be battling for second place in the SEC – behind Kentucky – by season’s end. In that context, it’s the biggest game to date for State.
“It’s a big game. It’s going to be physical. Alabama is one of the best teams in the league, and we’re going to have to play our style,” junior forward Arnett Moultrie said.
Tide gets defensive
A key matchup today will be Moultrie and Renardo Sidney versus Bama big men JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. That pair averages a combined 29.1 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.
The Tide ranks first in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 55.7 points per game, and second in field goal percentage defense (36.6).
That’s the result of a tenacious style that involves pressing, something that gave MSU big trouble in a loss to Arkansas one week ago.
“They’re going to get up into you, and they’re going to press you, and they’re going to get up into you in that halfcourt,” Stansbury said. “They’ll probably mix it up a bit with some zone. They’re very good defensively, and they’re going to be a physical team, too.”