Mississippi State at Alabama
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 7-6, 0-1 SEC; MSU 9-4, 0-1 SEC
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
After a painful double-overtime loss at Florida in its Southeastern Conference opener last Saturday, the Alabama men’s basketball team will be looking to rebound at home on Wednesday night — literally and figuratively.
The Crimson Tide hosts Mississippi State, which is also seeking its first SEC win after opening with a loss to Auburn.
“This is the best offensive rebounding team in the country,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the Bulldogs. “Go look at their numbers.”
The Bulldogs rebound more than 40 percent of their missed shots and have two players — 6-foot-10 Reggie Perry and 6-11 Abdul Ado — ranked among the top 50 offensive rebounders in the NCAA.
Oats said Alabama has improved on rebounding since its loss to North Carolina in December, which he called “a disaster.”
“We held our own against Florida until the overtimes,” Oats said. “By that time, our two bigs (Galin Smith and Javian Davis) had fouled out and (Alex) Reese was throwing up and so we are playing Herb (Jones) at the 5 and John Petty at the 4.”
In addition to rebounding, MSU’s Perry — a teammate of Kira Lewis on the USA Junior National team last summer — is a scoring threat.
“Perry is skilled,” Oats said. “He can handle it on the perimeter, he can dribble and pass and shoot 3’s — but the dude can go in there and get some offensive rebounds. We’re going to play small (lineups) some so we’ve got to be tough.”
Reese was back at practice for Alabama on Tuesday and is expected to play against the Bulldogs.
“It was kind of a one-day deal,” Oats said. “We can’t catch a break on injuries and guys being sick. Hopefully the adversity will make us stronger.”
MSU, meanwhile, will have All-SEC candidate Nick Weatherspoon, who is back for the fourth game since missing the Bulldogs’ first nine games. He scored 18 points last Saturday in MSU’s loss to Auburn.
“You’ve got to throw out what they did before he came back because they are a completely different team with him,” Oats said. “He’s attacking, coming down hill. They’ve got good players and did a decent job without him but they are a much better team with him. We’ll probably see the best version of Mississippi State with him in there.”
While numerous factors contributed to Alabama’s loss at Florida, a late-game turnover that led to the tying basket in regulation has been a focus of much attention.
Alabama had inbounded the ball with 23 seconds remaining and a two-point lead but point guard Kira Lewis called Alabama’s final timeout, thus requiring the Crimson Tide to attempt another in-bounds play from the sideline where John Petty could not run or call time out. He attempted a high pass to Reese, which was intercepted by Florida guard Noah Locke.
“Honestly, it shouldn’t be that hard to get the ball inbounds,” Oats said. “We have made some things a lot more difficult than they need to be. Part of that, I take ownership. We’ve got so much that we’ve changed in practice that we haven’t spent enough time on end-game situations.
“I talked to Kira, too, about playing a little more aggressively. When we’re in that situation, we’ll take a layup. We’d rather that than go to the line and try two free throws.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt