Now with a team-leading seven 20-point efforts on the season after Wednesday's 22-point showing against Tennessee, sophomore Mario Austin paces the Bulldogs' scoring attack at 16.1 points per contest. Along with ranking 10th among the league's leading scorers, the former McDonald's High School All American also stands fifth in the SEC in rebounding (7.8 rpg) and second in field-goal percentage (57.1%). With his team-high 23 points against the Volunteers earlier in the week, senior swingman Marckell Patterson is just 10 points shy of becoming the 24th player in Mississippi State's 90-year basketball history to score 1,000 or more career points.
Currently leading the SEC and ranked nationally in both assists (6.3 apg) and steals (2.7 spg), junior playmaker Derrick Zimmerman is also averaging 9.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game on the year from his point guard position. Sophomore guard Timmy Bowers and junior forward Michal Ignerski are adding 10.5 and 8.5 points per game, respectively, for the Bulldogs.
Ranked 16th in this week's Associated Press poll and 17th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, the Alabama Crimson Tide is also 15-3 overall on the year and atop the SEC's Western Division with a 3-1 league mark after posting a 77-72 road win over 20th-ranked Georgia this past Wednesday in Athens. Guided by fourth-year head coach Mark Gottfried, the Tide is paced by the talented junior duo of Rod Grizzard and Erwin Dudley, who average 14.8 and 14.6 points per contest, respectively. Alabama presently owns a 13-game home winning streak dating back to last season.
With Mississippi State and Alabama having split the regular-season series 11 out of the last 14 years, the Bulldogs are seeking their first SEC road win over a ranked opponent since their Final Four season of 1995-96. Overall, MSU is 4-5 versus Top 25 teams over the past two seasons, having knocked off then-sixth ranked Kentucky two weeks ago in Starkville and previously losing to then-No. 25 Cincinnati just prior to Christmas at the Las Vegas Classic.