The Mississippi State men’s basketball team will have its toughest test of the year today.
Mississippi State (9-6, 4-3) travels to face No. 18-ranked Alabama at 5 p.m. at the Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
Alabama (12-3, 7-0) is the only undefeated team left in the SEC and is one of the best offensive teams in the country. The Crimson Tide are averaging 81.8 points per game and have won each of their last three SEC games by an average of 27 points per game.
“They’re the best team in our league for sure,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “They have some great road wins and demolished LSU. They won at Tennessee and at Kentucky. They’re playing great basketball and I’m not surprised.
“Both Herb Jones and John Petty as seniors have taken their game to a whole new level from where they were a year ago.”
Against LSU on Tuesday, the Crimson Tide set an SEC single-game record with 23 made 3-pointers. Petty, the team’s leading shooter, made eight of them. Joshua Primo made six and Jahvon Quinerly made six.
Petty is averaging 14.3 points per game this year and is shooting 42.4% from 3-point range (39 of 92). He has been named the SEC Player of the Week twice already.
Jones is the fourth-leading scorer but is a matchup nightmare for whoever he lines up against.
The 6-foot-8 senior is averaging 12.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He runs the offense as the point guard but plays in the post on defense, usually defending a power forward.
“He’s a very difficult matchup because of his versatility,” Howland said of Jones. “He can guard 1-5 and yet he plays the point where he has the ball on offense all the time. That makes him a very difficult guard for anybody to matchup with.”
Alabama does a lot of its damage from deep. The Crimson Tide have made 165 3-pointers this season and are shooting 35.9% from 3-point range. Thirty-five percent of Alabama’s offense comes from the 3-point line.
With as good as Alabama has been at shooting the 3-pointer, Mississippi State has been just as bad at defending the 3-pointer.
Mississippi State has given up 123 3-pointers this year, which is 39% of the offense that the Bulldogs have given up.
Teams playing the Bulldogs shoot an average of 23.2 3-pointers per game, and MSU has given up over 10 3-pointers in a game five times already this season, including twice in SEC play.