January 14, 2012 11:41:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Alabama (13-3, 2-0 in SEC play) at No. 20 Mississippi State (14-3, 1-1), 3 p.m., Site: Humphrey Coliseum; TV: SEC Network
Current Line: Alabama by 1.5
Since we're a few hours away from tipoff let's count down the early subplots of tonight's contest before The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog arrives Saturday.
- Welcome to big boy basketball at Humphrey Coliseum as top froncourts meet in Starkville
The two schools, just 85 miles apart, will showcase a style of big-boy or as MSU junior forward Arnett Moultrie referred to it Thursday night, which is "grown man" physical basketball where the game will likely be one close to the hoop with the large man in the paint.
The Crimson Tide (13-3, 2-0 in SEC play), who started the season ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press preseason poll, is led by forwards Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green at 14.9 and 14.2 points respectively. Green only had eight points with his 10 rebounds last game, but the senior forward has proven to be an impact player this season as he continues to get fully healthy after an injury slowed his progress after Christmas break. Green, a former McDonald's All-American has had three 20-point performances in his last seven games and is second on the team in scoring and rebounding.
The Bulldogs is going to counter with the two frontcourt players that led MSU (14-3, 1-1) in scoring and rebounding with Moultrie and junior center Renardo Sidney.
"They've got a very good team," third-year Bama coach Anthony Grant said. "The guys up front with Moultrie and Sidney are probably one of the biggest frontcourts that we'll see this year. They've played extremely well and have had a lot of success this season."
Tennessee's frontcourt physicality was able to hold MSU junior forward Arnett Moultrie to just four rebounds, a season-low total by four and just one on the offensive end. Moultrie's inability to get to the offensive glass limited the Bulldogs to just eight second-chance points. The Tide will gladly take that lack of production from the MSU big athletics players in the paint.
- Can MSU turn the momentum in their favor against the Crimson Tide
Alabama was the momentum opponent that dictated the direction at which last year's MSU season went as the Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs in both games by more than double digits.
In the SEC opener last season, MSU was embarrassed in a 75-57 loss at Humphrey Coliseum to Alabama while Moultrie watched on the bench in his transfer season and freshman guard Rodney Hood was still dominating teams at Meridian High School. Grant's Tide program will have to account for MSU's influx of new talent in the rivalry contest.
"It's a big game," Moultrie said. "It's going to be physical. Alabama is one of the best teams in the league, and we're going to have to play our style."
- Scouting Alabama
Sophomore point guard Trevor Releford has led Alabama in scoring in the four of the last five games and is averaging 17.2 points per game on 35-of-48 shooting (5-of-11 from three-point) with 15 assists and 14 steals during that span. In his last outing, he matched a season-high with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
"He's been doing a great job scoring, pushing the team and leading," JaMychal Green said of the Tide's lead guard. "He's got to continue to do that and if he can build on that, we'll be a tough team to beat."
Capitalizing on the defense's work has allowed UA to rattle off five straight wins with an average margin of victory of 18 points those opponents, including a Big 12, ACC and two SEC programs.
The Tide has a pair of true road wins this season with wins over Georgia Tech and Georgia and is 6-2 away from campus this season.
Tony Mitchell leads the squad with 14.9 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting. He also leads the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game and has 30 of the team's 52 dunks.
Only four of UA's opponents have even reached the 60-point mark this season and four have failed to score 50 points. UA's 16 opponents have converted on just 36.6 percent of their field goal attempts, the fourth lowest average in the nation. Of UA's 16 opponents, 10 scored their season low to date against the Tide's defense and only two of UA's opponents have scored more than one point per possession against UA.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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