Stuart McNair

Alabama men’s basketball makes a ‘day trip’ to Mississippi State

Alabama men’s basketball hopes to be able to get SEC road victory at Mississippi State

Suppose you understand the fundamentals of a combustion engine, a transmission, windshield wipers, etc. Does that mean you can build a Mercedes-Benz? Alabama Basketball Coach Avery Johnson knows all the drills taught to big men from the likes of John Wooden at UCLA and Red Auerbach with the Boston Celtics and any others.


That doesn’t mean he can get Alabama low post player Jimmie Taylor back on track. Taylor, a 6-10, 248-pound junior, has played in 86 consecutive games and has 60 career starts. In Bama’s last three starts, Crimson Tide losses to LSU at home and South Carolina on the road, and a win over Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, Taylor has averaged just 3 points and 2.7 points per game. He has played an average of just 15 minutes per game, which means 25 minutes per game on the bench. He has had as many fouls (9) as points.


In Bama’s last game at South Carolina, he did not score and fouled out of the game.


Taylor isn’t suddenly going to become the Mercedes of basketball players, but he needs to provide some sort of positive presence if Alabama is going to get its first Southeastern Conference road win of the year when the Crimson Tide heads to Mississippi State on a Tuesday “day trip.” Bama is busing to nearby Starkville to take on the Bulldogs at 8 p.m. CST tonight. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.


For the year, Taylor is averaging a team-best 5.3 rebounds per game and 5.4 points and has a team-high 34 blocked shots.


Johnson and his Bama coaching staff can give Taylor all the drills, but it is up to the junior from Greensboro to transfer the practice to the game.


Alabama and Mississippi State are tied for next-to-last in the SEC with 2-6 league records. The Crimson Tide is 11-9 overall, the Bulldogs 9-11.


Although Bama has an all-time record of 119-73 against State, the Bulldogs lead the series in Starkville, 54-38. Alabama has won five straight in the series, including the last two in State’s Humphrey Coliseum. (The Tide has never won three in a row in Humphrey.)


Freshman Donta Hall has helped fill the void left by Taylor over the last few games, averaging 3.3 points and 5.3 rebounds with 10 blocked shots in the last three games, but he has trouble staying on the court because of foul problems.


One who doesn’t need a boost is senior guard Retin Obasohan. Over the last four games he has averaged 23 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 54.4 per cent from the floor and 50 per cent (8-16) on three-point shots. Obasohan now has a team-leading nine games of 20 or more points, including four straight and seven in the Tide’s last night games.


Obasohan, who is 93 points shy of becoming the Tide’s 49th 1,000-point career scorer, and soph Justin Coleman have been sharing time at point guard, but Coleman has been nursing a toe injury and did not practice Monday. He is considered a game-time decision for tonight’s game.


On the “good health news,” forward Shannon Hale has slowly been returning to form since missing three games due to a medical condition. In his first four games back (Jacksonville State, Norfolk State, Ole Miss and Kentucky), Hale averaged just 4.0 points and 1.7 rebounds a game. Over his last five games, the Johnson City, Tenn., native is averaging 13.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.


During SEC play, sophomore forward Riley Norris leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and 44.4 (16-of-36) shooting from beyond the arc. He also is averaging 10.1 points and 1.3 steals per league game.


Mississippi State will return the game to Tuscaloosa in just a couple of weeks, on Feb. 20.

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