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TRips: Three questions for UA-LSU

Here are three questions for tonight's (6 p.m. CT/ESPN2) SEC basketball game between Alabama (16-7, 5-4 in SEC) and LSU (13-10, 3-6) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Hankerson is coming off a 14-point performance at Auburn.

What did the win over Auburn do for Alabama's psyche?

Heading into Tuesday night's game at Auburn, the Crimson Tide resembled anything but a team riding a two-game winning streak. Coming off a double-overtime win over Ole Miss at home and the subsequent suspension of its second-leading scorer, Tony Mitchell, instead of thriving, this team was surviving.

After falling behind 12-5 in the early stages of the Auburn game, there was more of a sense of impending doom than furious rally. And then the Crimson Tide went on a 30-12 run to end the first half, a stretch that paved the way for a 68-50 win over the Tigers.

Funny how one game can change the perception of a team's psyche. The hope is that the performance on the plains proved something not only to those who took part in the win, but also the one guy who did not.

For the time being, UA forges on without Mitchell's services. That means Charles Hankerson and Rodney Cooper, who combined to knock down five of UA's six 3s at Auburn, will get another opportunity to prove they're worthy of extended minutes.

How much have LSU and Alabama changed since their first meeting this season?

Jordan Jefferson has taken over full-time at quarterback for the Tigers, while Brad Smelley has emerged as a go-to receiver for Alabama. Oh wait, wrong rematch, my bad.

For Alabama, the answer is obvious: Mitchell, who posted a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds) in UA's 69-53 win over the Tigers on Jan. 11, won't be available tonight. Alabama, which outrebounded LSU, 39-29 in the first meeting, might miss Mitchell's presence on the boards this time around.

For LSU, forward Storm Warren is coming off the bench these days. The senior scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the Tigers' 76-61 loss at Vanderbilt Wednesday night.

What will be the key matchups in this one?

UA point guard Trevor Releford keyed the Crimson Tide in its earlier win over LSU, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, LSU trigger man Andre Stringer accounted for 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3, in the first meeting.

While both teams committed 15 turnovers the first time around, Alabama did a better job of capitalizing on Tiger mistakes, outscoring LSU, 25-10, off turnovers.

As for the post, with Mitchell in the lineup, Alabama had the edge inside in round one, outscoring the Tigers, 32-18, in the paint. Freshman forward Nick Jacobs (7 points, 6 rebounds vs. LSU on Jan. 11) will be counted on to help JaMychal Green battle LSU's inside duo of Warren and Justin Hamilton, a 7-footer who posted 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in Tuscaloosa last month.

Then there's the bench, which has played a large role in the Crimson Tide's 3-0 stretch. Thanks in large part to Hankerson's emergence as a legitimate scoring option, UA reserves have outscored their counterparts, 93-48, over that span.

The Man says: Alabama -3.
Prediction: Alabama 66, LSU 61.

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