Alabama-Kansas St. Preview

The Associated Press

Alabama used a bigger lineup to bounce back following consecutive losses. It will need a similar effort inside if it hopes to contain Kansas State freshman Thomas Gipson.

The 23rd-ranked Crimson Tide visit Gipson and the Wildcats on Saturday night at Kansas City's Sprint Center.

After using a three-guard lineup to open the season, Alabama responded to losses against Georgetown and Dayton by starting three forwards for the first time this season in a 62-54 win over Detroit on Sunday.

Freshman Nick Jacobs made his first start and finished with 13 points and two blocks while JaMychal Green led the way with 21 points and six rebounds. The Crimson Tide (8-2) held the Titans to 32.1 percent shooting, including 0 for 12 from 3-point range.

After slow starts in its previous two games, Alabama opened on a 12-1 run and led 27-9 midway through the first half.

The three forwards - Jacobs, Green and Tony Mitchell - finished with 49 points and 14 rebounds.

"We felt we needed to make a change, just from a lineup standpoint," coach Anthony Grant said. "The next step is to understand what the roles are and what we need to do to put our team in the best position."

The change seemed to provide a spark defensively. For the season, the Crimson Tide are giving up 55.3 points on 35.6 percent shooting - ninth in the country. In the two losses, however, the Hoyas and Flyers averaged 65.5 points and shot 52.1 percent.

Mitchell credited the addition of Jacobs as being a key factor on both ends of the court.

"He has been working hard these last couple of days in practice, proving that he can be dominant down low and that's what he came out and did tonight," Mitchell said. "That is what we are going to need from him. ... If he can do the same thing, we have the potential to be a successful basketball team."

The Tide figure to stay with the same lineup to combat Kansas State's Thomas Gipson. The freshman, whom the Wildcats (6-1) list as 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, is averaging 14.0 points and 8.1 rebounds.

He had a season-high 23 points and 12 boards in a 79-68 overtime win over North Florida on Sunday.

"He has a willingness to do something that none of these kids want to do these days, and that's play with his back to the basket," coach Frank Martin said. "All these kids in today's day and age, all they want to do is shoot jump shots and show people they have a good inside-out dribble."

While Gipson has been outstanding, the Wildcats' veterans continue to struggle. Jamar Samuels has been up and down after missing the team's first two games due to a suspension, while Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling are both shooting below 40 percent.

Outside of Gipson, who went 10 of 18 against the Ospreys, the rest of the team shot 33.3 percent (18 of 54).

Yet despite some struggles, Martin is pleased with where the Wildcats are.

"I'm actually proud of our guys," Martin said. "We're a defensive stop away from being undefeated, even though I haven't been happy with how we've played to a certain extent. ... Our guys have gone out there and figured a way to get it done."

Kansas State and Alabama have split their two meetings, with the Wildcats winning 87-74 in Mobile, Ala., on Dec. 19, 2009.

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