Bulldogs face huge challenge against red-hot Crimson Tide

Alabama is undefeated in SEC play this season
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There is no time for Mississippi State to lick its wounds.

Just one game after the Bulldogs were dominated by instate rival Ole Miss earlier in the week, MSU is on the road Saturday, facing red-hot No. 18 Alabama – a team that's a perfect 7-0 in Southeastern Conference action.

"They’re the best team in our league for sure as you look at it right now," State head coach Ben Howland said of the Crimson Tide.

It's a humongous challenge for sure for the Bulldogs. Alabama hasn't just been winning. The Tide have been dominating, earning five of their seven SEC wins by 10-plus points.

Here's how you can watch or follow along with Saturday's game, along with selected quotes from Howland's pre-Alabama media session. Above, you can also see full video of Howland's press conference previewing the game.

  • What: Mississippi State (9-6, 4-3) at No. 18 Alabama (12-3, 7-0)
  • Where: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • When: 5 p.m. central on Saturday, January 23, 2021
  • TV/Video: SEC Network, Online via ESPN.com/ESPN App
  • Radio/Audio: Mississippi State Sports Radio Network (click here for full list of affiliates), online at Hailstate.com and the TuneIn radio app

Howland on bouncing back from the Ole Miss loss: “I think our guys are very receptive. We had a good practice (Thursday) and that’s what I was looking for. Anytime you play poorly as we did against our rival and watching the film, everybody can see it. Our guys are smart, but they could actually see the slippage. We had a very spirited, hard-fought, very competitive, physical practice (Thursday), and we need to have another one (Friday). A big part of it is having better execution and really playing with a sense of urgency in every possession.”

Howland on Alabama: “Well, they’re the best team in our league for sure as you look at it right now. They’ve got some great road wins. They demolished LSU, winning at Tennessee and winning at Kentucky – they’re playing great basketball. I’m not surprised. I thought they were really good this year going in just because they’re having (Herbert) Jones and (John) Petty (Jr.) as seniors. Any time you have high quality players that are seniors in your program, you see both of their games have taken them into a whole new level from where they were a year ago.”

“Then, (Jaden) Shackelford is a year older. I think (Jahvon) Quinerly has been a great addition. Obviously, they lost Kira Lewis (Jr.). They all shoot it so well. (Joshua) Primo starts for them as a freshman out of Canada. He’s a very good shooter and really shoots the ball well. They’re playing good defense. Their field goal percentage defense is among the best in our league, so they’re playing both sides of the ball very well.”

Howland on matchup problems against the Tide: “Well kind of what I pointed out – (Herbert) Jones is just a very difficult matchup for everybody in our league because he plays the point offensively but really, he’s a power forward. So, he’s a hard matchup for your power forwards because he handles the ball like a point guard.”

“He’s a really, really good driver and penetrator. When he gets in the switches, they’ll try to get you in the switch where he’s being guarded by a one or a two, then he’s just backing them down and going right in the post and spinning off of them. Those are the biggest issues in terms of the matchups that are concerning.”

“They all shoot it, so you’ve got everybody who’s out there on the floor. You know, (Alex) Reese isn’t shooting a great percentage this year. For example, (John) Petty (Jr.) is shooting 56 or 57 percent from three in conference games. That’s good.”

Howland on improving his team's offensive output: “I don’t know if it’s a slump. In the last game, I thought we took some really quick (shots). We watched the whole game (against Ole Miss) (on Thursday) before we practiced, and I really wanted our guys to see just how bad we were at both ends of the floor.”

“Offensively, there were just a lot of one-on-one play versus just playing as a team. We weren’t setting physical screens. We didn’t do anything with any kind of physicality or toughness at either end of the floor against Ole Miss. We have to get back to that and be good. We have to get the ball inside more and play inside out, which we weren’t doing at all, just executing better what we do is really the main thing.”

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