Tide Basketball Goes To State

The University of Alabama plays its first of back-to-back road games this week, and will complete its first Southeastern Conference 2008 series Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CST when the Crimson Tide travels to Starkville, Miss., to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

It's the second of two regular season meetings between these two SEC Western Division teams. Mississippi State (14-7, 5-2) won 66-56 in Tuscaloosa on January 19. Alabama (13-9, 2-5) caps the week at Kentucky on Saturday where it will play a noon CST game at Rupp Arena.

Wednesday night's game at Mississippi State is not televised. Alabama fans can hear the game on the Crimson Tide Sports Network with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink calling the game for radio. Their broadcast will be on Sirius 114. XM 201 will carry Mississippi State's radio broadcast. A list of Alabama's radio affiliates, as well as a link to listen to the broadcast online, can be found on Alabama's official website, www.rolltide.com .

"We talked about this the first time we played them, but I think when we've played Mississippi State, there have always been some great games, both ways," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried. "This one will be no different. I think they are a terrific team. They've played at a high level. They've been playing awfully well for a pretty good while right now, so they've had a great stretch going here. I think (Jamont) Gordon is so different because of his size and strengths and what he does in the game. And (Charles) Rhodes is playing very well for them. I think they're getting good play from everywhere, so we'll have to play well."

Alabama goes into the game fresh from an 81-72 home win against LSU on Saturday, led by the SEC's rebounding leader, Richard Hendrix who powered the Tide with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Hendrix, who ranks third in the league in scoring, is averaging 19.4 points and 10.5 rebounds. His game against LSU Saturday marked his 12th double-double of the season and the 32nd of his Alabama career.

Junior guard Alonzo Gee, whose league play this season has included 32 points against Florida and 27 against Tennessee, is averaging16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. He ranks 9th in the league in scoring and 8th in rebounding.

And also averaging in double-digit scoring for Alabama is senior guard Mykal Riley, who co-led the scoring in Alabama's win against LSU with 19 points, is averaging 13.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. Riley has scored in double digits now in 18 of Alabama's 22 games this season, topping 20-plus twice, including 22 scored against Top 10 ranked Georgetown. He ranks 24th in the league in scoring.

Rounding out Alabama's probable starting lineup Wednesday will be junior Brandon Hollinger (6.8 points/3.4 assists) at point guard and sophomore forward Demetrius Jemison (5.0 points, 4.9 rebounds).

Mississippi State is led by junior guard Jamont Gordon who averages 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Gordon ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring. Senior forward Charles Rhodes is averaging 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds, and sophomore guard Barry Stewart averages 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. The NCAA's top-ranked shot-blocker wears maroon and is Bulldogs sophomore Jarvis Varnado. Varnado is averaging 7.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and a nation-leading 4.9 blocks a game. And its' probable starting lineup is rounded out by freshman guard Phil Turner at 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Alabama and Mississippi State played the first of the two games in Tuscaloosa on January 19 where Gordon led the Bulldogs win with 24 points, including 10 of 17 shooting from the field. He coupled that with a team-leading five assists. Stewart had 15 points. The Bulldogs, who led 33-28 at the half, made 12 of 26 three-point shots attempted in the game. Alabama was led by Hendrix with 21 points and Gee had 10.

Alabama's Riley said, "Mississippi State is a good team. They've got Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes, two really good players. And you add (Jarvis) Varnado in there in their defense, and it makes for a really good team. Jamont Gordon is shooting the ball really well. We're just going to have to go in there and play real hard. Gordon hit a lot of contested shots in the game here, so we're going to have to try to get after him and get after him quicker and make him put it on the floor."

Mississippi State is Alabama's oldest opponent, not only in the SEC but in all of college ball. In Alabama's first season of basketball 95 years ago, in 1913, Alabama opened with two games against the Bessemer Athletic Club, then played its first college or university team, Mississippi State, in the third game of that inaugural season. Wednesday night's game will mark the 179th time these two teams will have played. Alabama leads the series 110 wins to 68.

Bama's last win in Starkville was in 2005 by a 68-63 score. Alabama has won four out of the last seven series games, beginning with a series sweep in 2005. It split in 2006 and 2007, winning the games in Tuscaloosa but falling in Starkville on "Senior Day" for the Bulldogs both those years.

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