NCAA Basketball

Mississippi State looks to slow No. 18 Alabama's hot shooting

The Alabama Crimson Tide, who have won their first seven Southeastern Conference games for the first time since 1986-87, will look to extend their strong league start when they oppose the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The 18th-ranked Crimson Tide (12-3, 7-0 SEC) are in the Top 25 for the first time since December 2017, and -- so far -- they are handling that acclaim well.

On Tuesday night, Alabama routed LSU 105-75, breaking its own SEC record by making 23 3-pointers.

It was the Crimson Tide's eighth straight win, and their two most recent victories each were by at least 30 points.

"I was worried about our attitude coming into (the LSU) game," Alabama coach Nate Oats said, "but we were locked in defensively and ready to play on offense."

The offense was led by John Petty Jr., who scored 24 points against LSU on 8-for-10 3-point shooting.

Petty is the reigning National Player of the Week. He has also earned SEC honors two of the past three weeks and is averaging a team-high 14.3 points.

However, the Tide are far from a one-man show. Three other Alabama players are scoring in double figures on average: Jahvon Quinerly (13.3 points per game), Jaden Shackelford (13.1) and Herb Jones (12.6).

Rebounding is also a group effort for Alabama as Jones leads the way (5.7 per game) followed by Jordan Bruner (5.3) and Petty (5.2).

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (9-6, 4-3) are 2-0 in true road games, although they are 0-3 on neutral courts.

They are coming off a 64-46 home loss to rival Ole Miss on Tuesday. The 18-point margin marked Mississippi State's largest loss of the season.

D.J. Stewart Jr. led the Bulldogs with 18 points, and he has scored in double figures in 14 of Mississippi State's 15 games this season.

Stewart made 7 of 16 shots against Ole Miss, including 3 of 8 from 3-point range. Tolu Smith (10 points) was the only other Bulldog to reach double figures.

"We've got to get (Stewart) more help," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said.

For the campaign, Stewart is averaging 17.4 points, tying him with Iverson Molinar for the team lead. They are also tied for fourth in the league in scoring.

The Bulldogs are usually a good rebounding team, winning the board battle in 13 of their 15 games this season. Smith leads the SEC in rebounding average (8.8 per game) and Abdul Ado (6.7) ranks 10th.

In blocks, Ado is tied for third at 2.0 per game.

However, the Saturday game could come down to the 3-point shooters. Petty leads the league with 39 made 3-pointers, connecting on 42.4 percent. Shackelford is fourth with 30 made 3-pointers, hitting 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.

For the Bulldogs, Molinar leads the SEC in 3-point shooting (51.4 percent) and has made 18 treys. Jalen Johnson, who has made 22 3-pointers, is eighth in the league in 3-point shooting (40.7 percent).

--Field Level Media

Updated January 22, 2021

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