Tide Has Another Game Vs. Bulldogs

It didn't take much basketball knowledge to see why Alabama lost by 66-58 in its basketball game at Georgia last Saturday. The Bulldogs made 15 more free throws than Alabama in Athens. In the eight-point loss, Georgia made eight more free throws than Alabama attempted. Now comes another free throw challenge.

When Alabama Coach Anthony Grant began his summation of areas where the Crimson Tide needs to improve, he started with "We need to defend without fouling." In the loss to Georgia, the Bulldogs hit 31-44 from the free throw line, including 23 of 34 in the second half.

That has to be on the Alabama mind as the Crimson Tide prepares to host the other Bulldogs -- Mississippi State -- in Coleman Coliseum at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday. One of the stars for MSU is Craig Sword, a 6-3 sophomore guard from Montgomery. In Mississippi State's Saturday win over Ole Miss, Sword scored 15 points. All 15 were free throws.

Both Alabama and Mississippi State are 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Bama is 7-8 overall, while the Bulldogs of second year Coach Rick Ray are 11-4. Last year MSU had only 10 victories all season.

Grant said that he is impressed with State and that the Bulldogs "played well in both their games." State lost in its league opener at Kentucky by 85-63.

A strength of Mississippi State is its ability to score off its defense. The Bulldogs lead the SEC and are 10th nationally with 9.6 steals per game. MSU has had 10 or more steals in seven games this year, including 11 against Ole Miss. Sword is fifth in the SEC with 2.3 steals per game. He has also scored in double digits in 13 games and leads the Bulldogs with 14.7 points per game.

Alabama is also good in the steals category with 8.1 per game, third in the SEC and 33rd nationally.

Grant is 6-2 against Mississippi State, including a three-game winning streak over the Bulldogs. Alabama has five straight wins over MSU in Coleman Coliseum and has won at home in 12 of the last 16 seasons. Bama has an all-time advantage of 117-73 against State, including 74-16 in Tuscaloosa and 37-8 in Coleman.

Alabama has the best current home court winning streak in conference games of any team in the SEC with 13 consecutive victories in league contests in Coleman.

Alabama is led by All-SEC guard Trevor Releford, a senior who is averaging 18.2 points per game. He leads the SEC and is 10th in the nation with 2.6 steals per game. He also leads the league and is fourth in the nation in free throw shooting (92.9 per cent).

Freshman forward Shannon Hale is averaging only 5.9 points per game, but has been very strong in recent games. In the last five games he has averaged 11.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, including 17 points in a win over Vanderbilt and 14 in the loss at Georgia.

Sophomore guard Retin Obasohan was held to only four points at Georgia, but is averaging 12.4 points and 2.5 steals per game for the Tide.

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