Grant Expects Hard Game From Auburn

To say that Alabama is coming off a big basketball victory is an understatement. The Crimson Tide's 68-66 win over Kentucky Tuesday night was not only the biggest win in Anthony Grant's tenure as Bama's head coach, it propelled the Tide to the top of the Southeastern Conference standings.

Alabama's win notwithstanding, most consider Kentucky to be the best team in the SEC. From that competition, the Crimson Tide faces what is considered to be the weakest team in the conference. But there are some circumstances that issue cause for concern.

For one thing, Bama next plays Auburn. For another, the game is on the road. The Tigers have a cozy new basketball facility and it will be full for the first time, attendance boosted by a football crowd on hand to crow about its win over Alabama and its national championship in the past season.

"You worry about everything," Grant said Friday before taking his team to Auburn. Tipoff Saturday will be at 5 p.m. CST with regional television coverage. Alabama is 11-7 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. Auburn is 7-11 and winless in its four conference games.

"My concern is Auburn has a team that is playing well right now," Grant said. He said the Tigers "out-played Florida in a lot of ways" in Auburn's Thursday night loss to the Gators by a 45-40 score.

He noted that Auburn had been very physical. "They played with a lot of grit and determination, and we can expect that from them," he said.

Grant said his team expects "a great atmosphere" in the Auburn arena. He said, "We've played in hostile environments. We have to be prepared for what we can control."

Although Alabama has dominated the series, 85-57, that doesn't diminish the rivalry, particularly with Auburn having won four of the past five games. The Tigers fired their coach after last season and new man Tony Barbee has had both the usual problems of coming in to rebuild a program plus unexpected losses to transfers and injury.

Those problems haven't kept Auburn from playing hard, Grant said. "They haven't won in the conference yet," he said, "but there hasn't been any dropoff in their effort."

Grant acknowledged that defense has been the strength for Alabama. "If we play well on defense, it gives us a chance to win," he said.

Alabama has won six of its last seven games and in only two of those has the Tide given up 60 or more points, the loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville and the win over Kentucky in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama leads the SEC and is seventh in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 57.3 points per game. Bama allows just .83 point per possession, which is tied for best in the nation. Auburn is averaging 62.7 points per game (lowest in the SEC) after the Tigers had just 40 against Florida. Auburn shoots 39.6 per cent from the floor, and Bama allows opponents just a 35.9 per cent mark on field goals, third best in the nation.

Alabama is averaging 67.5 points per game and Auburn has given up 64.8 points per game.

Alabama's expected starting lineup is 6-8, 228-pound junior forward JaMychal Green (15.5 points, 7.7 rebounds per game), 6-8, 227-pound senior forward Chris Hines (5.1 points, 7.1 rebounds), 6-6, 210-pound sophomore Tony Mitchell (14.4 points, 7.9 rebounds), 6-3, 186-pound senior guard Charvez Davis (9.4 points), and 6-1, 180-pound freshman point guard Trevor Releford (9.4 points, 3.5 assists).

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