Releford Doubtful Against Bulldogs

One of the keys to Alabama's comeback win over Tennessee last Saturday was the play of point guard Trevor Releford, who had 15 second half points in the Crimson Tide's 68-65 win. Now Bama is preparing to go to Mississippi State on Wednesday and Releford is doubtful with an injured ankle.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said that Releford, a 6-0 junior point guard who leads the Tide with a 16.3 points per game average, was injured in Monday's practice. Grant called him "doubtful," but said Releford, a three-year starter, would be examined again before Bama takes on Mississippi State at 8 p.m. CST Wednesday in Starkville. The game will be televised by CSS.

Alabama lost to Mercer and Tulane, among others, in limping into Southeastern Conference play with an 8-5 record. Now the Tide is 9-6 overall and 1-1 in SEC games and tied with the likes of Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri – all with 1-1 records in the young season.

Mississippi State lost to Troy and Alabama A&M in the pre-season, and now the Bulldogs under first-year coach Rick Ray, are 7-7 and yet tied for the SEC lead with such unlikely co-leaders as Auburn, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M at 2-0.

Mississippi State being 2-0 in the league gets your attention," Grant said. "They are a very dangerous team playing with a lot of confidence."

Alabama lost to Missouri on the road and came back to beat Tennessee at home in league games. Mississippi State won at home against South Carolina and on the road against Georgia.

Grant said that he has a number of options if Releford can't play. The Bama coach said he is more concerned about defense. In SEC play, Bama ranks 12th in the league in scoring defense, giving up 74.5 points per game, and is last in field goal defense (51.9 per cent) and three-point defense (46.7 per cent).

Grant is also concerned about defense as the Tide ranks 10th in the league in rebounding margin with the first two SEC opponents having 10 more rebounds than Bama.

Grant said he was impressed with Mississippi State playing a number of young players – starters include freshmen Craig Sword (9.6 points per game) and Gawin Ware (8.4 ppg) and sophomore Trivante Bloodman – and with how well the Bulldogs are playing defense. Freshman Fred Thomas comes off the bench and has a 10.0 ppg average. State is led by junior Jalen Steele, who had a career high 21 points against Georgia and averages 11.5 points per game.

Grant said he hoped that his team "can take momentum from the Tennessee game and the experience from that game on the road."

In its last outing, Alabama started Releford, Trevor Lacey (12.5 points and 3.3 assists per game), Levi Randolph (8.1 ppg), Rodney Cooper 11.7 ppg), and Nick Jacobs (4.9 ppg). If Releford can't play, Grant has several options, but one that would seem most likely would be moving Lacey over the point guard and starting freshman Devonta Pollard or senior Andrew Steele, who was the real force offensively and defensively in Bama's comeback win against Tennessee. Steele missed seven games with injury and is averaging 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, but had 11 points and four steals against Tennessee. Pollard, who was Mr. Basketball in Mississippi last year, is averaging 5.8 points and 3.5 rebounds.

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