| MBB/WBB Can Alabama basketball rebound from tough loss with dangerous Mississippi State next?


Sideline Club
Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats has a favorite descriptive for Mississippi State’s style of play: “muck,” as in “they like to muck it up.”

If that sounds derogatory, like some sort of comparison between the venerable Humphrey Coliseum (no one knows venerable gyms better than Alabama) and a primordial peat bog, Oats doesn’t mean it as a negative. It’s just a recognition of Ben Howland’s commitment to a style of play that has served him well over a long coaching career. A perfect example occurred Wednesday when MSU mauled South Carolina 69-48 and outrebounded the Gamecocks 49-24.

The Bulldogs do sometimes seem to lose focus and lose games that are hard to explain. But when it is on, Mississippi State is a load and at the moment, the Bulldogs (13-11, 7-8 SEC) are on with the No. 7 Tide (18-6, 13-2) visiting on Saturday (5 p.m. CT, SEC Network).

Both guards, D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar, are scoring. On the inside, Tolu Smith and Abdul Ado (with occasional bench support from 7-footer Quenten Post and 6-9 Alabama transfer Javian Davis) rebound, block shots and make life in the paint difficult. What’s more, the matchup comes just as Alabama is facing some re-evaluation of its own.

“There weren’t a lot of positives,” Oats said Wednesday night after Alabama’s loss at Arkansas. “Juwan Gary was a positive in his first game back (from a shoulder injury). (Jordan) Bruner was a positive, looked more comfortable (after knee surgery). Guys coming off injuries, it was good to see them play as well as they did. Other than that, not a whole lot positive"

That doesn’t mean Oats is planning wholesale changes on a team that is leading the SEC and beat Mississippi State at home 81-73 on Jan. 23. It does mean that some of the team’s veterans need to reassert themselves. For instance, John Petty Jr. and Jaden Shackelford, two of Alabama’s most reliable 3-point shooters, are 5-of-22 in the last two games. Herb Jones can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble. Freshman Josh Primo has been silent offensively.

There also seems to be an undercurrent that has allowed extraneous factors to affect Alabama’s focus.

"I thought we had a lot of guys worrying about the officiating,” Oats said. “We have no control over the officiating. We have to quit worrying about it. Let's worry about what we can control."

Alabama does still control its fate in the SEC regular-season race, needing one more win in what is now three games after the addition of a March 6 game at Georgia, to clinch the league title. That served as motivation for Arkansas. Alabama needs to find a way to turn that into self-motivation instead.



Sideline Club
Nate Oats on the game:

"We like to play games. When they told us we'd get an additional game (at UGA) it made sense we'd go on the road. There were a few options and UGA became one of them. When that game comes, we'll tackle it. I'm sure they'll be more ready for us."

"I met with the seniors. We talked about not looking at anything outside of one game in front of us. 1-0 for how many times we have left. Could be 5 guaranteed up to 12. Let's go 1-0 anywhere from 5-12 times. Let's not think about seeding."

"Lots of talk about winning the SEC at Arkansas. We talked way too much about stuff that had nothing to do with winning the game. Rest of the year we're trying to go 1-0 and then repeat."

"We're worried about winning the Mississippi State game, then they can let us know if we won the title."

“We showed clips, 15 or 20, of our reaction to the officials and we weren’t very good. We had some bad reactions on some good calls.”
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