Thanks to free throws and a suffocating defense, Alabama women’s basketball is on a roll through the middle of its season. For the first time in 20 years the Crimson Tide is 3-1 in the conference, and optimism for an NCAA Tournament berth has a hungry Alabama team playing its best stretch of basketball in coach Kristy Curry’s five-year tenure in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama at Mississippi State
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.
Records: Alabama 13-4 (3-1), Mississippi State 18-0 (4-0)
Radio: 93.3 FM

None of that will matter on Sunday in the Crimson Tide’s game at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are simply a different animal in the SEC, and coupled with South Carolina they are the gold-standard for teams within the conference.

Whatever momentum an opponent carries into Starkville usually stops right there, because the undefeated Bulldogs have lost just one game at home in the last season-and-a-half. Translation: It takes a near-perfect effort to beat Vic Schaefer’s team inside of Humphrey Coliseum.

That type of effort starts on the defensive end for Alabama if they want a chance to win. The Crimson Tide is forcing 18 turnovers per game, but Mississippi State is the top team in the conference at taking care of the ball. Should the game come down to crunch time once again, Curry could dial up the pressure and get some extra possessions for her team on offense.

Bulldogs center Teaira McCowan will be a tough matchup for Alabama. The junior ranks second in the conference in scoring at 21 points per game, and leads the SEC in both rebounding and field-goal percentage.

Senior Ashley Williams will battle with McCowan in the post. She has scored 12 or more points in three-straight games for Alabama, and leads the Crimson Tide in both scoring and rebounding.