Tide Has Tough Task Saturday

If one basketball team is headed up and the other is below and headed down, is there any way to keep them from getting further apart when they play? Although it may seem far-fetched at the moment, there is a way. That is Alabama's task when the Crimson Tide hosts Mississippi State Saturday morning.

With every Southeastern Conference basketball game being televised this year, there are some unusual starting times and days. Thus, Alabama hosts Mississippi State at 11 a.m. Saturday in Coleman Coliseum for the benefit of CBS television.

Alabama plays the second of three consecutive games at home, but that hasn't been advantageous in early SEC play. Alabama stands at 11-7 on the season and 1-3 in SEC games after falling to No. 8 Tennessee, 63-56, at home on Tuesday in its third consecutive loss. Bama's only conference victory was in the first league game of the year, at LSU.

Mississippi State, which has had a week to prepare for the contest, comes to Tuscaloosa ranked 23rd in the AP poll with a 15-3 overall record and sterling 3-0 mark in SEC play.

Mississippi State is the fifth ranked team Alabama has faced this season. The Crimson Tide is 1-3 against the previous ranked opponents with a win over then No. 15 Michigan. Alabama is 1-3 against teams currently ranked in the AP top-25 with the lone win coming against No. 25 Baylor.

While Alabama has lost three straight games, MSU has won three straight and last lost on January 4 at Western Kentucky.

Alabama is averaging 59.7 points in those three losses while MSU is averaging 78 points per game in SEC play.

Both teams boast strong defenses with MSU holding opponents to 61.2 points per game on 36.7 percent shooting while the Tide has held five of its last six opponents to less than 40 percent from the field.

Alabama sophomore JaMychal Green posted his fourth double-double of the season and 11th of his career with 16 points and 12 rebounds in Tuesday's loss to Tennessee. Despite being held to a season-low three points against the Vols, Mikhail Torrance remains the team's leading scorer with 15.2 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting with 5.2 assists per game.

Freshman Tony Mitchell returned to the starting lineup against Tennessee and had one of his most complete games to date with 11 points and a career-high nine rebounds and five blocks.

Mississippi State is paced by reigning SEC Player of the Week Jarvis Varnado's 14.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game. On the perimeter, the SEC's second most accurate three-point shooter Ravern Johnson is averaging 13.9 points per game and converting on 47 percent of his three-point attempts.

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