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Missouri-Alabama basketball preview

• WHEN/ WHERE: 1 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia

• TV/RADI O: ESPN2; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)

• ABOUT ALABAMA (8-8, 2-1 SEC) : The Crimson Tide are winless away from home this season, 0-3 in road games and 0-3 on neutral courts. Senior guard Trevor Releford scored 28 points, including a six-for-nine performance from three-point range, in Wednesday’s home victory against Mississippi State. He’s the engine for Alabama — which is 4-2 all-time against Missouri but has lost the last two meetings, including an 84-68 defeat in the Tigers’ SEC debut. The Crimson Tide averages the fewest rebounds per game (34.0) in the SEC, so that’s an area coach Frank Haith’s squad should look to exploit.

• ABOUT MISSOURI (13-3, 1-2 SEC): Missouri had its nation-leading 26-game home win streak snapped against Georgia in its last appearance at Mizzou Arena. Now, the Tigers start to hope a new streak and even their conference record by taking down Alabama. Missouri played tough against Vanderbilt despite a rough shooting night that included 12 missed layups and a six-for-23 shooting performance from three-point range. Despite those struggles, the Tigers only lost 78-75. Missouri must improve its defensive communication and can’t afford to lose track of Releford, who is lethal off drives but is also the conference’s fourth-best three-point shooter (.411).

• BOTTOM LINE: Missouri has shown grit this season and displayed it in the final minute against Vanderbilt. Of course, grit alone isn’t enough. The Tigers have struggled in the opening minutes during recent games and need to find a way to get dialed in quicker. For a team that is limited offensively by its lack of an inside scoring presence and has difficulty moving the ball efficiently in halfcourt sets, defense has to be its backbone. Missouri needs a better defensive showing, particularly around the perimeter against an Alabama squad that is statistically similar to Vanderbilt.

P No. Alabama Ht. Yr. PPG
F 11 Shannon Hale 6-8 Fr. 6.3
C 4 Carl Engstrom 7-1 Jr. 2.2
G 12 Trevor Releford 6-0 Sr. 18.9
G 20 Levi Randolph 6-1 Sr. 9.3
G 32 Retin Obasohan 6-1 So. 12.3
P No. Missouri Ht. Yr. PPG
F 3 Johnathan Williams III 6-9 Fr. 6.9
F 44 Ryan Rosburg 6-10 So. 4.6
G 5 Jordan Clarkson 6-5 Jr. 18.8
G 32 Jabari Brown 6-5 Jr. 18.4
G 33 Earnest Ross 6-5 Sr. 14.0