Petty and company have much to prove against USM

Where to watch: Alabama (2-4, #81 KenPom rating) vs. Southern Mississippi (2-5, #238) – Today 8:30 p.m. Central, Imperial Arena (Nassau, The Bahamas), ESPNU

Who to watch: John Petty. A combined 57 points in back-to-back spotlight games against North Carolina and Iowa State has once again raised hopes that Petty might finally be fulfilling the promise he showed as a five-star recruit. Now is his opportunity to prove he’s matured and maintain momentum against a non-glamorous opponent and with the scouting report firmly focused on stopping him. Including his 16 points last week against Furman, this is already his longest stretch of double digit games since the opening three games of last season. And this is only the second time the junior has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in back-to-back-to-back games. With so many of his teammates struggling to score consistently, the Crimson Tide needs to ride Petty’s momentum as far as it can.

What to watch for: Whether Bama gets caught looking ahead to the plane ride home from the Battle 4 Atlantis. Last year’s team had a perverse gift for reacting to a tough loss by hanging its head and taking an even worse setback in the following game. Southern Miss is a bad team by any definition, but the Tide got its last coach fired in March by ignoring an arguably worse one in Norfolk State. All the ingredients are in place for a classic letdown game, and it is up to the veteran core of this team to show it has grown up and become more resilient. If it can’t polish off a Golden Eagles team that has lost its three games against major conference competition by an average of 26 points a game, expect a gloomy winter and a major roster overhaul to follow.

Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris

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