STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Off to their best start in conference play since the 1993-94 season, the SEC West-leading Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-5, 3-0) travel to nearby Tuscaloosa to meet the Crimson Tide of Alabama (11-7, 0-3) Saturday afternoon. Tip-off for the 178th all-time series renewal is set for 2 p.m. CT at Coleman Coliseum on the Alabama campus. The contest will be televised regionally by Raycom Sports with Tim Brando and former MSU guard Joe Dean, Jr., calling the action.
Currently sporting a seven-game winning streak following Tuesday’s 69-64 home triumph over Kentucky, coach Rick Stansbury’s 12-5 Bulldogs join sixth-ranked Tennessee as the only two unbeaten SEC teams in league play to this point. MState opened SEC action last week with a 61-39 victory at LSU and a 60-49 home win over Georgia. As a team, MState continues to lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.355) and rank second behind Connecticut in blocked shots (9.00 bpg). The Bulldogs are bidding for their first eight-game winning streak since the 2004-05 season, while also looking to advance to 4-0 in conference action for the first time since the 1993-94 State squad opened league play with a 5-0 mark.
Individually, junior all-America candidate Jamont Gordon ranks among the SEC’s top-12 leaders in scoring (17.5 ppg; 6th), rebounding (6.7 rpg; 12th) and assists (4.24 apg; 7th), while senior all-SEC forward Charles Rhodes, who missed three games recently due to a sprained left ankle, stands 16th in the league in scoring (14.8 ppg) and 11th in rebounding (6.7 rpg). Sophomore guard Barry Stewart is also scoring in double figures (11.8 ppg) on the year, while fellow sophomore Jarvis Varnado maintains his top spot among the country’s leading shot-blockers (5.47 bpg) in addition to averaging 7.4 points and 8.8 rebounds (2nd in SEC) per game after posting the third triple-double (10 points, 12 rebounds & 10 blocks) in school history this past Tuesday against Kentucky.
Guided by 10th-year head coach and former Alabama standout guard Mark Gottfried, the Crimson Tide is 11-7 overall on the year and winless in three tries in conference play thus far. After going 11-4 during the pre-SEC slate, Alabama has since fallen at home to Florida (90-83) as well as having dropped road decisions to Arkansas (71-67 in OT) and Georgia (61-54). The Tide is powered by the talented junior tandem of Richard Hendrix (19.2 ppg & 10.5 rpg) and Alonzo Gee (16.1 ppg & 8.0 rpg), while senior guard Mykal Riley contributes 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per outing along with shooting 44 percent from beyond the three-point arc. A legitimate SEC Player of the Year candidate, Hendrix currently leads the SEC in rebounding, in addition to ranking fourth in both scoring and field-goal percentage (.632).
Mississippi State and Alabama have split the regular-season series 11 times over the last 13 seasons and 16 times over the last 20 seasons dating back to the 1987-88 hoops campaign. A year ago, Alabama pulled out an 80-79 home triumph at Coleman Coliseum, while the Bulldogs evened the score by claiming a convincing 91-67 ‘Senior Day’ victory over the Crimson Tide a month later at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs are 3-1 in road outings this season, having prevailed at LSU (61-39), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (95-70) and Loyola Marymount (85-54) by an average margin of 26.0 points per road win after dropping a tough 71-67 decision at South Alabama a month ago.