Mississippi State (11-9, 3-3 SEC) gets its first rematch of the season on Wednesday (7 p.m., SEC Network) when it visits Western Division-leading Alabama (13-7, 5-1). Last time these teams met, on Jan. 8, the Crimson Tide rolled to a 75-57 victory in Starkville.
Is MSU a better team since that meeting?
"We're just a totally different team right now," senior guard Riley Benock said this afternoon at the team's weekly press conference. "We were trying to put things together then; we still are now. We definitely feel we've progressed a long way since then."
That first meeting was Dee Bost's season debut, and he was clearly rusty. He had 14 points, shooting 5 of 16 from the field and 3 of 9 from the free throw line.
"His whole game has developed more, and he's got a lot more rhythm about him," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "The longer we can play together, the more of a chance we've got to become a better team."
State should be confident coming off Saturday's 71-64 win over Florida. Only four players scored in that game for MSU, and UF missed a lot of free throws. That plus the Georgia performance nine days ago makes it hard to say just how far this team has come.
"Are we where we need to be, no. Are we making progress, yes," said Stansbury. "It's going to be a continuous – it's like November for us. We're tweaking every day."
Let's hear a few more thoughts from Stansbury, along with a couple of factoids.
• On Renardo Sidney's play Saturday: "I thought he was a little bit better on a team that really ball screens a whole bunch. There wasn't no surprise. I thought he was a little bit more conscious of doing some things better."
• On pushing the tempo vs. Alabama: "We want to push every time we can. I don't know if Alabama wants to play that way. … It's going to be a grind-out game. They're going to make it an ugly game, because defensively they're really good."
• On Alabama junior forward JaMychal Green, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting: "He's a load, and he's kind of playing up now to what people anticipated."
• SID Gregg Ellis and his minions did their homework and found that the last time only four MSU players scored in a game was Feb. 10, 1996, in a 76-71 win over Oklahoma. That was the year of State's Final Four run.
• Ellis also pointed out that in the final three minutes of games this year, MSU is 81 of 101 at the free throw line, with Kodi Augustus going 27 of 31. Clutch.