TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The biggest news coming out of Friday’s news conference was the return of senior forward JaMychal Green. The availability of Green to the Crimson Tide couldn’t come at a better time with Mississippi State coming into Coleman Coliseum on Saturday at 5 p.m.
“They’ve been right there in every game they’ve played with chances to win," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said of Mississippi State, who is coming off four-straight losses. “I think our guys understand we’re facing one of the best teams in our league, certainly one that’s very dangerous.”
Green was more than just the leading scorer and second-leading rebounder for the Tide before his suspension. He was a presence. Against LSU, Florida and Arkansas his presence under the basket was sorely missed. For as well as Carl Engstrom, Moussa Gueye and Nick Jacobs played, they don’t offer the same scoring threat and defensive impact that Green provides.
Against Mississippi State, Green should make an immediate impact. The Bulldogs have a talented front court with Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Their athleticism and scoring prowess would have been difficult for UA to defend with a short bench. When UA went to Starkville, Miss., on Jan. 14, Green held Sidney, who averages more than 10 points per game, to 8 points on just 8 attempts, and limited him to 5 rebounds. Meanwhile, Green pored in 14 points, 3 assists and 3 blocks.
Coupled with the improvement of Jacobs, Gueye and Engstrom, there might be a different outcome than the Tide’s 4-point loss to Mississippi State in mid-January. Moultrie, who went off for 25 points, was the undoing of Alabama then, but with a deeper frontcourt, he will face more of a challenge.
Weathering the storm
Grant said he’s been pleased with the way his team has handled adversity of late. The poise of his players, Grant said, has been noticeably better, as evidenced against Tennessee and Arkansas.
“Early on the adversity was getting down, the way Arkansas came out and shot the basketball," Grant said. "Our guys stepped up and made plays. That’s the thing that for me sticks out is the way they stayed together and weathered the storms."
Rodney Cooper will have to step up once again with Trevor Lacey doubtful to play coming off a sprained ankle sustained in the first half against Arkansas. Cooper, who had scored just 11 points in the prior two games, hit for a team-high 17 off the bench in Fayetteville, Ark.
Grant said he hopes Cooper can sustain the improvement he’s seen in the second half of the season.
“I thought Cooper came out and played aggressive,” Grant said. “He took 13 shots, three of them from the 3-point line which means he was aggressive attacking off the dribble. He was effective doing that. We have to continue to get that kind of aggressiveness.”