ALABAMA HOSTS MISSISSIPPI STATE WEDNESDAY IN SEC HOME OPENER

The Crimson Tide’s men’s basketball team is looking to bounce back after a tough double-overtime loss at Florida to open Southeastern Conference play.

Alabama will host the Mississippi State Bulldogs, coming off a loss of their own to the Auburn Tigers.

A visible strength on the year for Mississippi State has been rebounding, likely in part to 6-foot-10 Reggie Perry, who leads the league averaging 10 rebounds per game.

“Whether we’re playing big or small, we’re going to have to bring toughness to the game,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “Our guards have to do a better job of chasing down long rebounds, so it’s not always on the bigs.”

Mississippi State is enjoying the return of point guard Nick Weatherspoon, following an undisclosed violation of team rules last year, resulting in him missing the final 10 games of last season and the first 10 of this season.

“You have to throw out what they did before him because they are a completely different team with him,” Oats said. “The more he plays, the more comfortable they will get with him, so I think we will see the best version of Mississippi State on the year.”

A late-game turnover off the inability to make a successful inbounds play in the final seconds at Florida has remained a point of emphasis for Nate Oats and the Tide.

Alabama had the ball with 23 seconds remaining and a two-point lead when point guard Kira Lewis used Alabama’s final timeout, forcing the Crimson Tide and John Petty to inbound the ball from the sideline with no timeouts. The pass was stolen by Florida which turned into a basket for the Gators, forcing an eventual double-overtime loss for Alabama, 104-98.

“Honestly, it shouldn’t be that hard to get the ball inbounds,” Oats said. “We have made things a lot more difficult than they need to be. Part of that, I take ownership with the team. We’ve got so much that we’ve changed in practice that we haven’t spent enough time on end-game situations.”

“I think our leadership is coming and will be there,” Oats said. “I think our guys are in the right frame of mind coming off a tough loss and we should see some good leadership moving forward.”

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