MSU men hope to continue momentum at Alabama

By: 
JOEL COLEMAN
Staff Writer

Fresh off a Tuesday night win over Vanderbilt in which Mississippi State snapped a three-game losing streak, Mississippi State has seemingly reestablished a foundation for a potentially promising season.

The Bulldogs will try to keep construction moving upward on that foundation starting Saturday night in a 7:30 p.m. game at Alabama.

“I thought we did some really good things (against Vanderbilt) that hopefully we can carry over and build on into our next opportunity,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “It’s going to be a very tough opportunity against a league-leading Alabama team over there.”

For MSU (14-4, 2-3), tonight’s matchup against the Crimson Tide (12-6, 4-2) is a clear chance to reestablish some momentum. The Bulldogs had that after winning 13 of the season’s first 14 games before dropping contests at Ole Miss, at Florida and at home against Auburn.

MSU halted its skid with authority Tuesday when the Bulldogs toppled Vanderbilt convincingly 80-62. It was a game marked by the stingy defense that has been a staple of State’s team all season, as well as one of the team’s best offensive showings.

“There was wonderful passing in our last game,” Howland said. “We really moved the ball and penetrated. When you have 20 assists, it’s a beautiful thing to see that many passes that lead to open shots and open opportunities for one another.”

It’s likely Mississippi State will need more of its defensive prowess and newfound offensive success if the Bulldogs are to pull out a big road win Saturday.

Like MSU, Alabama is also riding high. The Tide has won three straight games, most recently handing Auburn its first Southeastern Conference loss of the season on Wednesday.

Alabama’s unquestionable leader is freshman Collin Sexton. Sexton, who most believe will be a high pick in the next NBA Draft, paces the Crimson Tide with 19.3 points and 3.4 assists per game. However it’s unknown if Sexton will play today as he missed Alabama’s win over Auburn with an abdominal injury.

If Sexton isn’t on the floor, Alabama will lean heavily on John Petty, Dazon Ingram and Donta Hall. Petty averages 12.6 points per game, Ingram averages 11.4 and Hall averages 10.9.

Overall, it’s a talented Crimson Tide roster with visions of playing its way into the NCAA Tournament come March.

MSU’s expectations aren’t all that different itself. The Bulldogs have plenty of work to do in order to springboard their way into the NCAA Tournament discussion, but their goals are still set high. To have a chance to get there, State has to make sure Tuesday’s win grows into something more. Saturday would be an excellent place for the Bulldogs to start.

“We expect to win every game one at the time,” Howland said.

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