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Alabama's Releford likely to miss game vs. MSU

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- Maybe the Mississippi State University men's basketball team's luck with injuries is starting to turn the other way. 

 

With MSU confident freshman guard Craig Sword will be able to play at 8 tonight (CSS) against the University of Alabama at Humphrey Coliseum, the Crimson Tide may not be as fortunate. 

 

Alabama junior point guard Trevor Releford sprained an ankle Monday at practice and is listed as "doubtful" for tonight's game. 

 

"He will be re-evaluated again today," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Tuesday to the media prior to the Crimson Tide's practice. "But I think he is doubtful or questionable to play." 

 

If Releford is unable to play, Alabama is expected to use a combination of players at point guard, as it did when Releford missed a game against Lamar University in late November. 

 

"If (Releford) is unable to go, Trevor Lacey will play more at the point," Grant said. "Retin (Obasohan) could step up and Levi (Randolph) could play point in some situations." 

 

The potential loss of Releford can't be diminished. He leads Crimson Tide in scoring (16.3 points per game) and experience. He also is ninth in the Southeastern Conference in minutes per game (31.5). 

 

"He is just such a good player, not just one person is going to contain him," MSU coach Rick Ray said before the injury was announced. 

 

"It's going to take a whole team to shot him and his dribble penetration." 

 

Lacey, who is second for Alabama (9-6, 1-1 SEC) in scoring (12.5 ppg.), will have the dual responsibility of guarding Sword and making sure Alabama's offense doesn't suffer as it tries to win its first true road game and third game this season away from Tuscaloosa, Ala. 

 

For MSU (7-7, 2-0), it likely will have Sword, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, ready to go after he suffered a severe ankle sprain. The Montgomery, Ala., native 

 

has had his left foot in a boot for the past two weeks and has been getting daily treatments from MSU trainer Scotty Johnson. 

 

"Based on the fact he played in Georgia, unless he did something to re-injure, I suspect he will play against Alabama," Ray said Monday. "How far he is as far as his percentage, being a 100-percent health, 80-percent healthy, I don't know." 

 

Sword had 16 points, four rebounds, and two steals Saturday in a 72-61 victory against the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. 

 

On Dec. 12, senior forward Wendell Lewis suffered a fractured right patella. He had surgery in December and is sidelined indefinitely. In his last two games, the Selma, Ala., native was averaging 18 points and had a career- high 20 points against Texas-San Antonio. Lewis' injury and Sword's ankle problem were the latest in a rash of injuries that started in July. Incoming freshman guards Jacoby Davis and DeAndre Applewhite tore anterior cruciate ligaments in their knees and are out for the season. Applewhite's setback, which also includes a torn meniscus, happened in November, while Davis was injured in July. Davis was Rick Ray's first signee. He averaged 21 points and five assists at St. John's Military Academy in Wisconsin. Applewhite had a stellar prep career in Memphis. 

 

Today also will be a reunion of two good friends from the Magnolia State, as former McDonald's All-American Devonta Pollard returns to the state of Mississippi for the first time since leading Kemper County High School to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state championship last year. Pollard could see action against freshman center Gavin Ware, who already has been named SEC Freshman of the Week this season. The players were on the same Mississippi Amateur Athletic Union team in the summer. When Ware signed early with MSU, it was thought Pollard would join him with the Bulldogs. Rick Stansbury's resignation caused the Kemper County standout to remove MSU from his list of preferred schools. 

 

Pollard, who is averaging a little more than five points per game this season, has scored in double figures twice this season, but the 6-foot-8 post player could make an impact tonight against a depleted MSU frontcourt. 

 

"A lot of times if they bring their four man or five man out and we have a small guy on them, then we can pressure them on the perimeter," Ray said. "It becomes a problem when they go into a paint or, more importantly, when the shot goes up and you are trying to block out a bigger guy." 

 

A victory tonight would give MSU its first 3-0 start in the SEC in three years. A 3-0 start also would make Ray the first MSU coach to win his first three league games since Frank Carideo did it in 1936.

 

 

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