Tide, LSU Going Different Directions

When Alabama hosted LSU two and a half weeks ago, the Fighting Tigers were fighting a four-game losing streak. Four games hence, the Crimson Tide goes to Baton Rouge Thursday night to play against an LSU team with an eight-game losing streak. Bama has won 11 of its last 13 games.



Alabama is in the lead for the Southeastern Conference Western Division title and in contention for the SEC regular season title. LSU is in a battle with Auburn for the SEC's worst record. Nevertheless, Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant expects LSU to be a better team than the one Alabama blasted 70-46 in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 29.

Alabama is 8-2 in SEC games and 16-8 overall. LSU is 2-8 in the conference and 10-15 in all games. Tipoff at the Maravich Center will be at 8 p.m. CST Thursday with ESPN televising the game.

Grant said that LSU will have different personnel than the Tigers had in Tuscaloosa, notably that junior forward Storm Warren has returned to play. Additionally, when the teams met the first time, the Tigers outstanding guard, Ralston Turner, was making his first appearance after an absence. Warren contributes 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Turner, who scored only two points in 20 minutes against the Tide, is tied with Andre Stringer for the LSU scoring lead at 12.2 points per game.

LSU had a very poor game against Bama in Coleman Coliseum, punctuated by Alabama having a 43-24 advantage in rebounds and the Tigers committing 18 turnovers.

JaMychal Green led Alabama with 23 points in 20 minutes in the first meeting.

Grant said, "I think this team (Alabama) has grown this year. We made strides last year. We've still got a long way to go."

The coach said that Alabama has been effective in scoring off transition, steals and rebounds, but that he has not been as pleased with the Tide's transition to defense.

In the first meeting with LSU, Tide forward Tony Mitchell had 14 points. In the four games since, Mitchell scored a career best 23 against Mississippi State, broke that mark with 24 at Tennessee, had 22 at Vanderbilt, and added his fourth consecutive game of 20 or more points with 20 against Ole Miss.

"He's got the ability to make plays," Grant said of the 6-6, 210-pound sophomore. "Guys make big jumps between their freshman and sophomore years. He was one of the best freshmen in the league last year, a season that was dominated by freshmen.

"It's not just scoring. He's rebounding and doing the other things. He's having a very good sophomore year."

Grant is reluctant to talk about the possibility of a championship. He does admit that winning the SEC Western Division was one of the pre-season goals. Now, he said, "The focus is on LSU. If we take care of things every day, the rest will take care of itself. My goal is that we get better every day.

"That's the process."

The process has produced an outstanding defense, which is credited with carrying Alabama this year. Bama is surrendering just 58.4 points per game, eighth best in the nation. Alabama has held all 24 opponents and al 10 SEC opponents to an average of just 0.83 point per possession, tied with Texas for best in the nation. Additionally, opponents are making just 36.8 per cent of their field goals, third best in the nation.

Bama will be facing an LSU team that averages 62.7 points per game while shooting 40 per cent from the field.

Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU by 99-66 and has won three straight and eight of the last 10 games against the Tigers.

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