Who to watch: Kira Lewis. The point guard from Meridianville had a below-average night in the first matchup with the Bulldogs – until his desperate block of a 3-point shot in the final minute helped choke off a MSU rally. In the three games since, Lewis has been much more locked in, with his scoring up and turnovers down. There’s always a risk of a freshman hitting a psychological wall in February but Avery Johnson until very recently has tried to cap his minutes at no more than 30 per game in hopes of keeping him fresh for the stretch run. An improved performance from Lewis will be an important piece of any potential Bama upset in Starkville.
What to watch for: Matching State’s mental toughness. The Bulldogs may be in the lower half of the conference standings, but they’ve seldom gone down without a fight. Four of their SEC losses (including the first game in Tuscaloosa) were by four points and another was a five-point loss. Beginning tonight, MSU expects to be favored in at least six of their last eight games, so the potential is there to make up ground in a hurry. And State surely feels it owes the Crimson Tide some payback after out-rebounding Bama in the first game and shutting down its 3-point shooters. Alabama will have to take MSU’s best shot early and not flinch if it is fortunate to hold a second-half lead. A 35-minute effort won’t cut it this time.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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